LANE ONE: LA28’s Kathy Carter says 2021 has been good, working to build an Olympic game-changer: “the most sizable, addressable fan base across all of the sports”

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“We’ve had a good year. For us, it’s always first and foremost, making sure that we’ve solidified the revenue that will empower our Games and actually pay for our Games.”

That’s Kathy Carter, the Chief Revenue Officer of the LA28 organizing committee and head of U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Properties, the joint marketing venture with the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee. She spoke at length about what LA28 has been doing on the 23 August edition of the SportBusiness Finance Weekly podcast with U.S. editor Eric Fisher and Fifth Generation Sports’ Chris Russo.

The 2028 organizers have been pretty quiet about their activities, with a higher public profile coming in 2022. But Carter made clear that plenty has been going on.

“Certainly from a metrics standpoint, because typically an organizing committee isn’t even stood up until [seven years prior], we’re definitely ahead. …

“We announced Delta as our first founding partnership prior to the pandemic. Through the pandemic, we’ve announced Comcast and most recently, Salesforce [and] Deloitte; Nike and Ralph Lauren as renewals with the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee/Team USA, so we’re feeling really good, and really good as well about the tenor of conversations that we’re having. …

“So generally speaking, I think, we’re really far ahead of what a normal organizing committee – the position that they would be in [in the same timeframe] – but like I said, until we’re done, we’re not done. So that’s the pressure we put on ourselves and the pressure we put on the team.”

With a $2.51 billion domestic sponsorship revenue target, the Salesforce and Deloitte partnerships were not traditional product-sales company sponsorships and Carter explained that they are the building blocks of a mammoth concept to have people in Southern California and across the U.S. better engage with the 2028 Games:

“When you look at the entirety of the Olympic and Paralympic Movement, just so many people are engaged – whether it be through an individual sport or the Movement in its totality – but what has been lacking is really a concrete effort towards that overall customer integration and engagement.

“That’s really where we believe that Salesforce and Deloitte are going to help us super-charge what we want to do, to have the most sizable, addressable fan base across all of the [Olympic and Paralympic] sports, be they large, medium, small, whatever the size is and we think there’s a real opportunity for us to think differently relative to the consumer, the customer, the fan who wants to engage with whether it be archery or it be track & field or it be swimming or it be rowing.

“We have a real opportunity to figure out ways to customize and create real engagement strategies for fans and give them what they want, when they want it and where they want it. So that’s a big, big part of what we’re thinking about with certainly Salesforce and Deloitte, and I think that’s the blueprint for what you’ll start to see with a number of other partners that will come aboard, is how do they help us get smarter faster and actually build towards ‘28 with an eye towards even legacy beyond ‘28 and how do we leave both the community of L.A. in some cases or the Olympic or Paralympic Movement better than we found it.”

The implications for this are massive and such a database has been the object of multiple international federations already. Beyond what an addressable fan base in the millions could mean for LA28, it could be worth decades of support for the USOPC, whose revenue now primarily comes from a share of the U.S. television rights sales and the IOC’s TOP sponsorships.

Direct sales, licensed merchandise, gaming, donations and news are only the beginning of the possibilities.

“So we’re looking at everything and trying to find the ways to present these Games and to continue to support the development of Team USA in ways that perhaps have not been thought of.”

Carter also offered a snapshot of the status of the LA28 organizing effort, now seven years  ahead of the third Los Angeles Games:

“As we’re starting to get [finances] in a really good position, we’re starting to turn our attention to the foundation of the organizing committee, so whether that be hiring this year our [Chief Financial Officer] and now recently our [Chief Information Officer], so what we need in terms of strategy – and really plans – to head into what will eventually become execution, have been setting up a lot of the different elements that will lead into the Games, so finalizing what’s called the ‘preferred plan’ around all the venues and all the delivery of the Games.

“Today, we don’t yet have the core sports program approved; that has been voted on [by the IOC], it will be, we think, in 2022. So, there’s still some open ends as it relates to what we’ve got to do to deliver the Games, so we’re very, very focused on making sure that we have all of the right people, all of the right strategy in place for the delivery of the Games, so that allows us then to go after the opportunity for some of the impact areas for us where we think we actually can impact the community of L.A. very positively, whether that be through our youth sports program or what will be many other programs that we will unveil here in the next year. …

“We’re starting to put in place those plans, but certainly I think the first and foremost in our mind is how do we actually make sure we deliver these Games in a fiscally responsible manner. That’s our first legacy because it means that the City of L.A., the community of Southern California, the State of California, our country, nobody has to worry about what we do to deliver the Games themselves. It will be a collective effort.”

Carter was part of a small LA28 team that went to Tokyo to observe the just-concluded Olympic Games; she noted of the Tokyo 2020 organizers, “credit goes to them for having been able to pull it off and the IOC as well, for being their partner in that.”

In Tokyo, she observed that even without the normal sponsorship programming for spectators, the business-to-business sponsor activation programs were in action:

“I think it was a different look at the Games. We did spend a decent amount of time with a number of the [IOC’s] TOP partners and really starting to see, most importantly for us, was how do they integrate to deliver the Games.

“And I think that’s one of the key ‘ethoses,’ if you will, of the LA28 Games, this idea of co-creation, and I think that certainly, the partners did a lot of that in Tokyo. [It was] a little bit behind the scenes, something that isn’t perhaps as easy to see from a consumer standpoint, but clearly something that they can use from a B-to-B perspective. So whether that was Intel, with a number of technology integrations, whether that was the domestic partners and how they helped deliver the Games, there were some really good things for us to start to identify as key learnings as we think about ‘28 and really the journey to ‘28 and how our partners begin to co-create the Games with us.”

The LA28 effort has gone largely unnoticed in Los Angeles and elsewhere with so much attention focused on Tokyo, the pandemic, and the forthcoming, controversial Winter Games in Beijing. But LA28’s time in the spotlight is coming and quickly.

If it can create a new, durable paradigm for engaging fans of the Games and of Olympic sports, it will create a legacy – as did the organizers of the 1932 and 1984 Los Angeles Games – which can propel the Olympic Movement in the U.S. into a bright future indeed.

Rich Perelman

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