TSX REPORT: The Olympic sponsor “expectations gap”; Russia, sports, politics and crime; eight ski federations talking split from FIS?

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1. Burns asks if IOC and its sponsors are missing the point
2. Medvedev: “sports is about business, politics and … crime”
3. Eight European ski feds talk about possible FIS breakup?
4. End of the Commonwealth Games?
5. French financial prosecutors end Paris 2024 Aloisio probe

● Longtime Olympic marketing and sponsorship expert Terrence Burns wonders whether Olympic sponsors are missing their best opportunities by treating the Games like any other sports program.

● The Russian Security Council Deputy Chair told reporters that the war against Ukraine will continue with the ultimate goal of taking Kyiv still in focus. Then he talked about Paris 2024, insisting “Today, sports is about business, politics and in some cases, even crime.” Well, he should know.

● Eight of the top European skiing federations are discussing a possible break from the International Ski & Snowboard Federation (FIS) over the new, unified rights sales approach; the alpine skiers are asking for a revised, safer, more meaningful World Cup schedule.

● The former head of the Commonwealth Games association in the British-affiliated island of Jersey said that the Commonwealth Games as an event might be dead, just short of its centennial.

● The PNF, the French financial prosecutors, have closed their inquiry of Paris 2024 chief of staff Michael Aloisio, finding no offense to charge him with. Other Paris 2024 investigations are ongoing.

Panorama: Paris 2024 (artistic gymnastics team draw for men and women announced) = Athletics (3: Kipkurui suspended, Sudarushkina banned for four years by AIU; Mary Cain now competes for Ireland; solid gold medals for Tokyo Marathon!) = Biathlon (all-time Worlds attendance record in Nove Mesto) = Speed Skating (Stolz reflects on triple-triple Worlds golds) = Weightlifting (Theisen-Lappen “wins” women’s +87 Euro title) = Wrestling (seven Greco medals for U.S. at PanAms) ●

Burns asks if IOC and its sponsors are missing the point

A fascinating post on X (ex-Twitter) this week from the highly-respected and long-time Olympic sponsorship expert and marketing consultant Terrence Burns (USA) on perspective shifts from Olympic Movement sponsors, a select group that he has personal experience with.

It’s carefully constructed and worth a slow, deliberate read:

Over the years, I’ve observed an ‘expectations management gap’ from Olympic sponsors that grows a bit wider with each Games.

“The IOC and Olympic movement, quite rightly, place ‘athletes’ at the center of the Games.

“Olympic sponsors, often using a ‘traditional sports marketing’ approach, put fans in the center of everything they do.

“Neither are wrong, and each needs the other to deliver on their respective objectives.

“I will say, however, that the refrain ‘why can’t you be more like the NFL…?’ means someone hasn’t done their homework.

“And, offering brands as different as Coke and Intel (just examples) the same set of marketing rights and benefits is fraying as a strategy (the folks at the IOC know this) and needs to evolve (they know this too).

“But, there is a baby in that bath water that many are urging the IOC to pour down a Swiss mountainside. So, let’s take a breath before we summarily dismiss the greatest global sponsorship program in history.

“I’ve often felt that many sponsors tried force a round peg into a square hole by approaching the activation of their Olympic sponsorship based their experience with other sports property investments. It’s apples and oranges. Not good, better, or worse … just totally different.

“Conversely, the Olympics, in attempts to ‘remain current’ or in reaction to the ‘expectations gap’ of their commercial partners, have at times tried too hard to capture the ‘new’ at the expense of refocusing on what makes the Olympic brand most powerful, namely, its unduplicatable universal values.

“I have thoughts, but I’m more interested in yours.”

Observed: The IOC’s “TOP” sponsorship project was a direct outgrowth of the sponsorship revolution ushered in by the success of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and the approach developed by Peter Ueberroth and Joel Rubenstein of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee.

That model – based on fewer sponsors, with category exclusivity – and improved by the IOC to allow worldwide reach, is now 40 years old. It still works quite well and the IOC has created new platforms for its sponsors, notably the Olympic Channel online effort.

And the IOC is continuing to expand, now starting to move into promoting Olympic qualifying events to amp up the noise a full year – or even two – prior to the next Games, and getting ready to create a new property, the Olympic Esports Games, possibly as soon as 2026.

These are new opportunities for sponsors, but to Burns’ point, too often sponsor efforts are simply to attach themselves and sometimes their products to the Olympic Rings. Unlike any other sporting program, the Olympic Games comes out of a religious ritual created exactly 2,800 years ago, in ancient Olympia in Greece.

All of today’s problems with win-first mentalities, cheating and fraud were present then, too, but the ancient Games survived for 293 editions. Paris will be the Games of the XXXIII Olympiad of modern times, a comparative child. But even this new version has power and a tie to the public imagination which is different from football or American Football or basketball or anything else.

Rarely do we see anything from sponsors until the year of – or the time of – the Games that reminds us of that. And there lies opportunity. People feel different about the Olympic Games, and athletes who represent their country, than they do about their favorite teams, whether they be the Chicago Bears or the L.A. Lakers or even Lionel Messi and Inter Miami.

But you rarely see that emotion, respect and admiration embraced in TOP sponsor promotions, programs or outreach. At least not yet.

Maybe Burns’ next gig is as an Olympic sponsor “coach.”

Medvedev: “sports is about business, politics and … crime”

When Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev talks, it’s worth listening.

The former Russian President from 2008-12 and Prime Minister from 2012-20, he spoke with reporters on Thursday and said that Russia has no intention of curtailing its invasion of Ukraine:

“Where to stop? I don’t know … Will it be Kiev? Yes, probably it should be Kiev. If not now, then … maybe at some other phase in the development of this conflict.”

He also spoke about the sanctions against Russian athletes as a result of the invasion that will keep most of them from competing at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games:

“This is an absolutely vile affair portraying the prevailing sentiments in the International Olympic Committee and other international sports structures.

“Global sports is in crisis. Today, sports is about business, politics and in some cases, even crime. We need to take this into account when deciding about participating in certain sports events.”

He also insisted that Russia implemented no widespread, organized doping campaign from 2011-15:

“No one is completely clean and no one says that there were no doping issues previously. But I believe that the amount of doping abuse cases was certainly comparable to what was reported among athletes in other countries.

“However, it was us who was dragged through the mud first, since it was part of a political agenda.”

He did acknowledge that the alternative competitions now being organized by Russia for its athletes and those from its political allies was difficult:

“You want to slam the door and say, ‘Well, live by your own rules’, and try coming up with something new on your own. But it’s hard.”

He said that he does not plan to watch the Paris Games:

“The Olympics in Paris are ahead; I don’t want to watch it, I don’t even want to look at the performances of our athletes under a neutral flag, who swore an oath that they do not support the Russian state and the Northern Military District.

“This is their choice, I don’t blame them from a legal point of view, but from a moral point of view, this is a complex topic.

“I think that in the end the Olympics in Paris will be very sad.”

Observed: Denial, obstruction and “whataboutism” was standard practice in Stalinist times and has been the Russian approach to today’s scandals in sport, war and elsewhere. Medvedev’s comments are primarily for domestic consumption, but are a signal that it’s hardly apologetic for anything it has done.

And Medvedev’s comment about sports and crime is chilling, as it is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which has derailed its return from the doping crisis to normal status.

IOC President Thomas Bach (GER) is insistent that all countries – no matter how criminal – must be present in Paris to allow the world to come together. He is going to get his wish, but it will also be against the backdrop of Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin opening the “Games of the Future” in Kazan on Wednesday and showing his contempt for the IOC, the World Anti-Doping Agency, the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the entire Olympic Movement by having at his side teen figure skater – and suspended doper – Kamila Valieva.

Eight European ski feds talk about possible FIS breakup?

The Norwegian public television service NRK reported Wednesday that eight of the leading national skiing federations – Austria, Finland, Germany, Italy, Norway, Slovenia , Sweden and Switzerland – have refused to go along with the planned consolidation of television and sponsorship rights and could go their own way.

The story explains that the continuing effort of the International Ski & Snowboard Federation (FIS) to centralize all of these rights across all of the FIS disciplines under Swedish President Johan Eliasch has met with opposition from these federations, although the specifics were not reported.

Swedish Ski Association Secretary General Pernilla Bonde told NRK that meetings with the FIS are continuing and the ultimate goal is an agreement, but the eight European federations – dubbed the “Snowflake Coalition” – will not sign the current draft in view of not being involved in any negotiations as to the future administration of rights they have controlled up to now. From the story:

“These eight countries have instead worked together for a year and a half and held weekly meetings since October about an alternative structure. The eight countries account for around 65 percent of all World Cup races this winter.”

“If the eight countries are not consulted, they want to start their own competitions outside the FIS system, a kind of super league on snow.”

The discussions are planned to continue, but also demonstrate the latest governance concerns over the aggressive style of Eliasch, who has insisted on a major change in the way FIS does business, in order to increase the financial returns to all levels of competitive skiing and snowboarding.

Austrian media reported on a “secret,” athletes-only meeting at the men’s Downhill and Super-G races at Kvitfjell (NOR) last weekend, getting set to insist on changes to the schedule. FIS Race Director Markus Waldner (AUT) explained, “They want to have a say in the calendar planning; that’s their right; after all, they’re the ones competing. Everything they say is justified.”

The primary issues are for a better balance between speed and technical races, fewer, but better races and an end to double races, as with the two Downhills at Wengen (SUI) and Kitzbuehel (AUT), considered to be safety risks due to exhaustion.

More public discussions are expected after the end of the World Cup season in March.

End of the Commonwealth Games?

The former head of the Commonwealth Games Association for the British-affiliated Island of Jersey told BBC Radio that the event might have run its course. Paul du Feu said on the BBC Radio Jersey “Sports Matters” podcast:

“It’ll be a pity, but I honestly think it is coming to an end.

“[I say that] Just because of the professionals at the very, very top of sport – the pressure at the very, very top of sport is immense.

“At the World Swimming Championships in Doha, masses of the world’s best swimmers are not there because there’s an Olympics this year.

“They’re happy to miss the World Championships because they can’t afford to miss the Olympics, so there’s already a pecking order within the sport.

“The Commonwealth Games is way down the shopping list for those people.”

The 2022 edition in Birmingham (ENG) was highly successful, but there has been no replacement in sight for the 2026 edition after the stunning withdrawal of the Australian state of Victoria in mid-2023.

Nor is there a host lined up for what would be the centennial of the Commonwealth Games in 2030, which started as the British Empire Games in Hamilton (CAN) in 1930.

The Commonwealth Games Federation in London has said that a host is being sought and if none is found for the Commonwealth Games as a whole, the event could be delayed to 2027, or broken up into individual “Commonwealth Championships” until a host for the whole event can be found.

It is always possible that what might seem as strange arrangements could be made; earlier this month, the Jeux de la Francophonie – the Games of French speakers – was awarded for 2027 to Yerevan in Armenia, where almost no French is spoken. But the country is willing to host. Tres bien!

French financial prosecutors end Paris 2024 Aloisio probe

France’s National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) said Wednesday that its inquiry into actions by Paris 2024 Deputy Director General Michael Aloisio has ended, without the filing of any charges.

The investigation was ended on 18 January “for lack of offense,” according to the PNF, responding to a request from Agence France Presse:

“The elements exploited did not make it possible to suspect an attack on the principles of equal treatment of candidates, transparency of procedures or freedom of access to public procurement, nor of influence peddling.”

Aloisio’s lawyer, Julie Fabreguettes told AFP, “This decision to dismiss the complaint was expected: it was necessary in the face of a totally fanciful and slanderous complaint.”

The PNF responded to a complaint last August from former organizing committee staff member Sebastien Chesbeuf, who alleged favoritism in the grant of a contract related to the development of the French Alps bid for the 2030 Olympic Winter Games.

PNF inquiries have been made into various aspects of Paris 2024 operations, including searches for undue influence or conflicts of interest in the awarding of other contracts and even the setting of compensation for Paris 2024 executives. But so far, no charges have been filed.


● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● The draw for the order of competition in men’s and women’s artistic gymnastics team qualifying was published by the Federation Internationale de Gymnastique on Thursday.

For the men, Tokyo 2020 silver medalists Japan will start on Vault, and China on Rings in subdivision 2. The U.S. is in subdivision 1 and will start on the Pommel Horse.

For the women, there are five subdivisions and the U.S., the current World Champions, is in subdivision 2 with China, Italy and a forthcoming qualifier. The Americans will start on Beam, with China on Vault. Great Britain, the Tokyo Olympic bronze winners, are in subdivision 1 and will start on Vault.

● Athletics ● More suspensions from the Athletics Integrity Unit, including 29-year-old Caroline Kipkirui, originally Kenyan, but now running for Kazakhstan. Seventh at the 2022 Worlds in Eugene in the 5,000 m and 10,000 m, she has been provisionally suspended for “whereabouts” failures.

Her last race was a half-marathon on 19 November 2023 in Hong Kong. She won Asian Games bronze medals at 5,000 m and 10,000 m at last year’s Asian Games in Hangzhou (CHN).

Suspended for four years was Russian javelinista Victoriya Sudarushkina, now 33, who last competed in 2017. Her results from 28 February 2013 are nullified and her ban stretches from 21 February 2024. She returned a positive doping test in 2013 (trenbolone) and three in 2014 (ostarine), covered up by the Moscow Laboratory, according evidence provided by the McLaren Reports and by data recovered by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Her seventh-place finish at the 2013 World Championships will be nullified.

Former U.S. prep star Mary Cain, now 27, has changed allegiances and is now affiliated with Ireland for international competitions.

Born in Bronxville, New York, she competed for the U.S. at the 2012 World Juniors, finishing sixth in the women’s 1,500 m, then was ninth at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow and was World Junior Champion at 3,000 m in 2013.

Her last results on the track were in 2020, and she has been trying out the triathlon. But World Athletics confirmed that her change-of-nation was valid from 16 February.

The Tokyo Marathon, the first of the World Marathon Majors races in 2024, will award medals to the top men and women runners and wheelchair racers made of pure gold, pure silver and pure bronze.

The medals are provided by Tokyo-based Tanaka Precious Metals Group (part of Tanaka Holdings), and measure 65 mm in diameter (2.56 inches) and are 2.8 mm thick (0.1 inches), and weigh 180 g (6.35 oz. of gold), 100 g (3.53 oz. silver) and 85 g (3.00 oz. bronze).

Depending on where you shop, the 180 g gold medal has a metal value of about $11,700 and the 100 g silver medal, about $73.

The Tanaka Precious Metals Group has produced the medals for every edition of the Tokyo Marathon, which debuted in 2007.

● Biathlon ● The International Biathlon Union confirmed that the just-completed World Championships in Nove Mesto (CZE) set an all-time attendance record of more than 210,000 across nine sessions and that live television audiences – primarily in Europe – ranged as high as 10 million.

In Norway and Sweden, two of the powerhouse nations in the sport, viewing of the IBU Worlds reached an 80% share – that’s the percentage of televisions that are on – during the last weekend. That’s impressive.

● Speed Skating ● American teen superstar Jordan Stolz completed an unprecedented “triple-triple” at the ISU World Single Distance Championships in Calgary (CAN), winning the 500-1,000-1,500 m titles for the second straight year. But he was calm about it:

“The feeling last year was a bit more surreal, because it was the first medals in the World Championships ever, but this is also kind of crazy, that I did it again. I feel like winning twice is way more impressive. The chances of doubling again are pretty low, but I was able to manage.”

He’ll compete at the ISU World Allround Championships in Germany in March, but his likely biggest rival, Dutch triple-Olympic champ Kjeld Nuis, 34, is conceding nothing. Asked if he could compete with the 19-year-old Stolz:

“How not? No problem. I suffered from the flu before the Dutch trials and I won races in the World Cups and at the European Championships (1,000 m) while I was still recovering. I’m not gone just yet.”

Stolz agrees:

“I think they can get close, so I just keep training as hard as I can. You never know how they could jump up right next to me.”

● Weightlifting ● A final “win” for the U.S., competing as guests at the European Championships in Sofia (BUL) due to safety concerns at the Pan American Championships now starting in Venezuela.

Mary Theisen-Lappen had the second-highest total in the women’s +87 kg Snatch round at 116 kg, then was easily the winner of the Clean & Jerk at 155 kg for a 271 kg total that was the best among all competitors. The formal gold medalist was Britain’s Emily Campbell with a 263 kg total.

Caine Wilkes, a U.S. guest in the men’s +109 kg division, lifted 176 + 214 for a 390 kg total that would have placed him in a tie for fifth overall.

● Wrestling ● Eight of the 10 classes in men’s Greco-Roman were concluded on the first day of the Pan American Championships in Acapulco (MEX), with the U.S. collecting seven medals in all.

The U.S. was the only country to win two classes, as Hayden Tuma defected Hector Sanchez (MEX) by 4-0 at 63 kg, and Alex Sancho won the 67 kg division with a 3-1 victory over Andreas Montano (ECU).

Three Americans won three silver medals, with Camden Russell finishing in the 55 kg round-robin with a 1-1 record; Randon Miranda lost in the 60 kg final to Raiber Rodriguez (VEN), 8-7, and Mahmoud Sebie was 1-1 in the 82 kg class to finish second.

The final two Greco classes are on Friday, with the men’s and women’s Freestyle divisions to follow.

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