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Big Corporations Hope To Strike Gold In Nagano Olympic Games Give Companies That Sign On As Sponsors A Powerful Way To Enhance A Brand Image

Sun., Jan. 25, 1998

In its battle against Fuji Photo Film for the Japanese market, Eastman Kodak has long played the underdog. But when the Olympics come to Fuji’s home turf next month, Kodak will have the field all to itself.

Exclusive sponsorship agreements at the Olympics are multimillion-dollar deals. But corporations like Kodak and Coca-Cola Co. say it’s worth it to knock out the competition.

Kodak sponsorship means rival Fuji will be locked out of any marketing using the Olympic name, five-ring emblem or other motif associated with the Nagano games.

And Kodak hopes the visibility it gains during the Feb. 7-22 games will help boost its fledgling status in Japan, where Kodak controls a mere 10 percent of the film market, in contrast to its near-70 percent domination of the U.S. market.

Kodak has long claimed that the Japanese market is fixed. But it lost a major trade battle last month, when the World Trade Organization rejected U.S. claims that Fuji had conspired with the Japanese government to keep Kodak products out.

Kodak is counting on the Olympics’ all-gold image for the edge it needs in Japan’s tough market. Kodak officials say the company’s Olympic campaign has already boosted sales there.

“We just see an extraordinary amount of value from beginning to end,” Carl Gustin, Kodak’s chief marketing officer, said in a telephone interview from headquarters in Rochester, N.Y.

Kodak is one of 11 companies called the Olympics’ “worldwide partners” that have pledged about $40 million for a set of one summer and one winter games. A more limited $15 million “gold sponsor” deal covers only the Japanese market for the Nagano Games.

Toyota Motor Corp., one of the gold sponsors, will show off its technology by providing 1,500 vehicles, including electric and other clean cars, to shuttle athletes and Olympic officials. (All donated products and services are calculated as part of the payment package.)

Other Japanese companies are official suppliers. In return for a donation of bread for the athletes, Yamazaki bread sold in Japan gets to carry the Snowlets Olympic mascots on the packaging.

Marketing experts say the games are a powerful way to enhance a brand image with even more widespread appeal than endorsements of individual athletes.

Kodak views Nagano as a chance to win over the world’s top photographers who will be covering the event. It plans to hand out more than 120,000 free rolls of film and process 75,000 rolls of Kodak film at the game.

Kodak also hopes to win over Olympic athletes.

Through a service set up by IBM, another Olympic sponsor, Kodak will offer electronic mail service for athletes who wish to send home digital photos of themselves in action. Digital cameras - made by Kodak - will be available for rent by athletes and visitors.

In addition, Kodak will present each Olympic athlete with two cameras, a Kodak Advantix 1600 camera upon arrival, and a disposable camera before the closing ceremony.

Olympic rules ban trademarks and advertising at athletic venues. But corporate sponsors say there are opportunities aplenty right outside the venues, where visitors and media can be readily targeted with products and brand-names.

Coca-Cola, for example, has its logo on all road signs in the Nagano area that direct visitors to Olympic sites.

The income from corporate sponsorship is essential to the games.

Corporate sponsorship made up 32 percent of the $1.7 billion marketing revenue of the Atlanta Summer Games two years ago, and 21 percent of the $25 million for the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games, according to the International Olympic Committee.

Sponsorship for Nagano totals $212 million, or about 27 percent of the total $780 million revenue, organizers say.

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