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US Olympic team adds big sponsor in P&G

Friday, September 4, 2009

CINCINNATI -- Let the games -- and the ads -- begin.

The Procter & Gamble Co. has thrown its sponsorship dollars behind U.S. Olympic athletes, the latest in a push to beef up its sports promotions. The deal announced Tuesday comes within a few weeks of a multiyear agreement with the National Football League and the launch of a global advertising campaign featuring sports stars Tiger Woods of golf, Derek Jeter of baseball and Roger Federer of tennis.

An advertising expert thinks P&G is playing an aggressive offense in the recession.

"The financial services are distressed, the car companies are distressed, the airlines are distressed; and here they come with the checkbook," said John Sweeney, director of sports communication at the University of North Carolina's School of Journalism. "It's a very interesting chess move."

Sweeney suspects the world's biggest advertiser is negotiating some good deals in a buyers' market, adding access to the sports' lucrative audiences for pitches for consumer products such as Tide detergent and Pampers diapers.

Financial details weren't released, but deals with companies of this size are usually worth at least $15 million. The Olympics tie-in involves 17 P&G brands, from Olay skin care to Pantene shampoo to Pringles snacks.

Kirk Perry, P&G's vice president for North America, said the company was attracted by the Olympics' strong appeal for women, teens, 18-to-34-year-olds and other key demographic groups.

"We always talk about meeting our consumers where they are, and this is certainly where they are," Perry said.

He said P&G has learned a lot about sports marketing from the 2005 acquisition of the Gillette Co., longtime sponsor of Major League Baseball and other sports, and continues to look at sports opportunities as good investments for a company that spends some $8 billion a year on advertising.

The P&G sponsorship of the Olympic team for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games and the London 2012 Summer Games is a big boost for to the U.S. federation's effort to attract corporate backers while many companies are cutting back.

"It's a very significant announcement for us," said Lisa Baird, USOC's chief marketing officer. "It goes to the depth of marketing that a company like Procter & Gamble can bring to our athletes and the Olympic movement."

The USOC recently lost General Motors and The Home Depot as sponsors and is trying to renew deals with Bank of America and AT&T. The federation had previously signed smaller deals with Ralph Lauren, Acer, Adecco and Deloitte.

Baird said more sponsorships are in the works and that the addition of a leading marketer like P&G could help attract others.

The deal includes individual athlete partnerships; digital, print and television advertising, and Team USA-logo merchandising.

P&G brands have had Olympic tie-ins before, but P&G officials said this will be their most extensive Olympics involvement.

Perry said the Olympic deal was "very comparable" to the NFL agreement. Four P&G brands, including Gillette shavers, are "official products" of NFL locker rooms, and eight others can carry the NFL logo in retail marketing under a multiyear contract that begins this football season.

A "Gillette Champions" campaign features stars Tiger Woods of golf, Roger Federer of tennis and Derek Jeter of baseball, among other athletes.

___

AP National Writer Eddie Pells in New York and AP Sports Writer Stephen Wilson in London contributed.


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