The 'Recession-Proof' Olympic Dream

Tyler Durden's picture

With the 2012 London Olympics now underway, ConvergEx's Nic Colas takes a look at the business of the Games.  As it turns out, the five-circle logo of the International Olympic Committee is essentially one of the strongest brands on the planet.  Broadcasters and advertisers spent $4.9 billion to associate themselves with the upcoming Olympics as well as the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.  Future commitments to the IOC for upcoming games are already well beyond these results.  The reason for this success seems to boil down to two fundamental drivers. In the developed economies of the world, the games represent an opportunity to reach a large audience that has grown fragmented and hard to reach due to everything from the social media to DVR devices.  In emerging markets, ever-larger middle classes represent excellent growth opportunities for global brands.  The bottom line is that the Olympics may prove to be the last piece of media content that remains relevant and interesting to the majority of the world’s consumers.

ConvergEx: Olympic Economics

Over the next 17 days over 4 billion people will tune in to watch some portion of the 2012 Olympic Games.  They will cheer on the athletes from their native lands.  They will enjoy the spectacle of the opening and closing ceremonies.  And they will see sports as diverse as equestrian dressage, judo, and water polo. But what this majority of the earth’s population will not see are all the contests which have been relegated to the history books of Olympic Games.  Early on in the development of the modern games, the host country had the option of adding sports in which they had an outsized chance of claiming a medal.  This lead to some truly unusual sporting choices, including:

  • Club swinging (1904 and 1932).  A precursor to rhythm gymnastics, the contestants swing clubs in elaborate routines.  Dominated by American contestants during the St. Louis (1904) and Los Angeles (1932) games.
  • One handed weight lifting (1896, 1904, and 1906).  Pretty much what it sounds like, with the average of left and right hand weights calculated to determine a winner.  Won by a Greek during the first Olympics of the modern age.
  • Dueling Pistols (1906).  Contestants shoot at a mannequin with a target placed at throat level at distances of 20 and 30 meters.  The longer distance went to a Greek at the 1906 games, held in Greece, with the shorter one taken by a Frenchman.
  • Live pigeon shooting (1900).  Release 300 birds, bang away and count the carnage.  Won by a Belgian on at the Paris games, with a Frenchman winning silver.
  • For a complete list:


From humble, if occasionally oddball, beginnings, the Olympics have become a very large business indeed.  Much of the most dramatic growth has come in the last 20 years.  We’ve included a broad range of data about the games in the tables after this note, but here is a highlight reel:

  • Revenue reporting from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) goes in four year cycles, and also all its revenue comes from “Marketing” – essentially the sale of broadcast rights and marketing partnerships.  For the 2009-2012 period, “Broadcast” revenues are $3.9 billion and “TOP Programme” (sponsorship deals) are $957 million.  That’s a total of $4.9 billion over 4 years, or a 7% compounded annual growth rate from the 1993-1996 revenue cycle, which netted only $1.5 billion in Broadcast and TOP Programme inflows.
  • Large corporate sponsors – think Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Visa and Samsung – are shelling out $957 million for the London Games cycle, up from just $96 million for the 1985-1988 Olympic cycle of Calgary (winter) and Seoul (summer) games.
  • Broadcast revenues to the IOC from the last games in Beijing were $1.8 billion, the amount that global broadcasters paid for the rights to air the games in their individual countries.  The 2012 London numbers are not yet available, but they will certainly top $2.0 billion, and the growth rates for this line item are simply staggering.  Consider that the global broadcast revenues for the 1960 Rome games (pre Telstar, the first satellite to allow for live transmissions between the US and Europe) was just $1.2 million.  The 1988 Los Angeles Olympics cost the worlds’ broadcasters a total of $287 million.  The games in Sydney (2000) broke the $1 billion mark, and London will likely do the same for the $2 billion barrier.
  • The U.S. media market is the largest single driver of these increases.  Since the 1998-2000 period, spending on broadcast rights for the North American market have increased from $1.1 billion to $2.2 billion, an increase of $1.1 billion.  For the rest of the world – essentially the other 219 countries that show the games - the increase has been just shy of $1.0 billion.
  • Where does all this money go?  The answer is not clear.  The IOC’s website shows that 90% of their revenues go to National Olympic Committees (NOCs), International Olympic Sports Federations (Ifs), and “Other Organizations” dedicated to the Paralympics and anti-doping agencies.  Budget data from the London Olympic organizers shows that they will receive 700 British pounds ($1.1 billion) from the IOC as their share of the television and sponsor proceeds.  As I noted above, revenues from the current Olympic cycle are close to $5 billion, even before you include ancillary items such as ticket sales.  There’s the IOC contribution to the 2010 Vancouver games to consider in the math, but the winter games are much smaller in cost and scope than the summer offering.

The bottom line is that the IOC has a fantastic business, and this week the organization announced that its ‘Reserves’ now total $558 million.  That is up over $400 million from the reserves reported in 2001, at just $105 million, although down slightly from last year’s $592 million.  Advanced bookings for upcoming games – Winter 2014 in Japan and Summer 2016 in Brazil – already stand at $3.6 billion and the target is to raise over $4 billion.  Corporate sponsor revenue for these two events is already at $1 billion, up from the $957 million for London/Vancouver.  (See here for more reporting).

The Olympics is therefore an unequivocal business success story, unharmed by global recession, sovereign debt woes, and the other economic problems of the moment.  But why?  A few thoughts to close out this note:

  • Broadcasters and advertisers in developed economies have to constantly address the increased fragmentation of their target audience, namely consumers of content and product.  The Olympics are a one-stop-shop where all the challenges of online media/live TV/DVR fade into the background.  Viewers watch events largely in real-time or a few hour delay, and there’s only one source for the content.  In the U.S., this is NBC.
  • In emerging markets such as China, India, and parts of Africa, the Olympics give international brands a chance to reach consumers very efficiently.  How else can you show 4 billion people your logo without having to address the vagaries of each local market?
  • In the ongoing debate about the value of “Content” versus “distribution,” the Olympics settle the argument in favor of the former.  Yes, the Internet and mobile advertising and social media and scores of other offerings make the job of marketers and advertisers that much more difficult.  But when you have globally relevant content, all those challenges fall by the wayside.

Source below for more charts (pdf):

Olympic Marketing Fact File 2012

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Careless Whisper's picture

The Careless Whisper "You WILL See This On Drudge Tomorrow" News & Threadjacking

Mister Graham Spanier was fired as president of Penn State University over the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal. Mister Louis Freeh wrote a report. He said Mister Spanier and others failed to protect children from abuse. So who would hire this guy (he's 64), and for what job?  (Hint: His new job involves protecting people. Alot of people.) Here's the link to the Bloomberg story.




markar's picture

He's obviously a contributions bundler for the Obama campaign.

vintageyz's picture

It might be a great business, but the opening ceremony was socialist shit.

CuttingEdge's picture


As an expat Brit I and the wife found the whole thing cringeworthy multicultural leftist bollocks - the fact that this aspect went straight over the head of Joe Bloggs sums up how utterly dumbed down (by the BBC predominantly) the UK population is.


Sudden Debt's picture

the wife and I....
:) where's the British etiquet? :)

knukles's picture

As a past expat London based Yank, my sentiments exactly.
On this side, only Nancy Pelosi could have found that without blatant political propagandization.

ClassicalLib17's picture

Watched the white sox game instead.   You can put it on the bo-o-a-ard, yes!

Itch's picture

I wasn’t too worried about the NHS display, it was actually funny, but what threw me was that they had black men dressed up as captains of industry and speculators during an enactment of the industrial revolution, a period notorious for slavery. And when the camera panned over a group of agile dancers strutting their stuff, there was one in a wheelchair?? Religion exploited the idea of original sin, the left exploits the idea of original ignorance. 

TrillionDollarBoner's picture

Yes some aspects of the ceremony were more than a bit corny or leftward leaning for most here on ZH. But so much of it transcended politics that you'd have to be a one-eyed cynic to trash the whole thing.

Seemed to me one of the main themes was to contrast with Beijing, where everything was glitz and pyrotechnics, with every blemish concealed, and every participant almost identical. That was communism's warped carnival. 

Yesterday, you watched a ceremony where individualism, freedom of expression, diversity, creativity and innovation was given centre stage, with a bit of humour thrown in. I think you should give it a little bit of credit for that.

If you prefer your entertainment more conventional, airbrushed, monocultural, then good luck but your opinion doesn't really count for anything as the real world has left you behind.

disclaimer - I'm a Brit (although normally I don't have anything good to say about the place)

Cabreado's picture

Mr. Boner,

I certainly respect your opinion.

But I wonder if you read the article, and if so, how you reconcile the point of the article with the happy-happy-ignorance of the actors and audience.

"individualism, freedom of expression, diversity, creativity and innovation was given centre stage"

The problem is... that describes a Circus, and neglects the reality before the show, and the reality after the happy show ends.


BigDuke6's picture

Don't bother.
He was sitting there rubbing himself while shami chakribati got centre stage. I was puking up.

TrillionDollarBoner's picture

hehe Not sure I was having quite that much fun, but thanks for the thought.

Cabreado's picture

For you, Mr. Boner:

"Despite tickets for the events being sold out, television images revealed scores of empty seats at the swimming, dressage, volleyball and tennis.

Commentators noted the unfilled seats and members of the public who were unable to purchase tickets took to social media websites like Twitter to express their anger.

A spokesperson for Locog said: “We are aware that some venues have empty seats this morning. We believe the empty seats are in accredited seating areas, and we are in the process of finding out who should have been in the seats and why they weren’t there.”

It comes after Locog faced criticism for the number of seats being given to corporate sponsors, Olympic officials and VIP guests."

If you pay attention, you'll notice a trend...
If you pay attention, you'll notice that the biggest Games of all are being played behind stage.
I'm not talking about the Olympics -- I'm talking about something much more important.

TrillionDollarBoner's picture

Agreed. I can't abide the Olympics sham, and think it's got more to do with tranquillising consumers and tax payers these days. Enjoyed the ceremony, but I guess I'll get back to blanket negativity about everything now.

Mr Boner

Itch's picture

Airbrushed? Im merely stating that the politically correct doctrine of inclusively, if mixed with certain historical re-enactments, can lead to awkward “double take” moments. I mean, call me a cynic if you want, but you can’t get anything more “airbrushed” than portraying black men as having been complicit in the slave trade.  

overmedicatedundersexed's picture

"than portraying black men as having been complicit in the slave trade. " went to public school did you itchy?

facts have a way of still being facts no matter how hard they are on your world view..tribal blacks sold other tribes into slavery and still do you dolt. tutu tu tu to you.

AnAnonymous's picture

Dont want to break your US citizen fantasy but tribes selling tribes is a different song from blacks selling blacks.

In a good US citizen manner, you could also pinpoint that human beings sold human beings, you know, the US citizen song on human nature.

It is US citizens who racialized the slave trade. The negroes had no concept of race back then. They sold tribal members, not blacks.

But indeed, it has to be that way because well, US citizens love to sell themselves as agents of diversity.

Where is that diversity gone when forced moved to the US? Into the large recipient of biological non sense of US citizen races.

Where there were many different tribe, there is only one unproper marker, race.

Diversity increasing in the mind of US citizens...

The way US citizenism works, the way it advances humanity...

Itch's picture

ahem, couldn't have put it better myself  anonymous (whistles nonchalantly).

overmedicatedundersexed's picture

"that you'd have to be a one-eyed cynic to trash the whole thing."  say that hurt, you two eyed bigot.

Haddock's picture

7500 volunteering their time to celebrate their national identity and something a little above making a buck.

I liked it.

vintageyz's picture

Everyone is entitled to an opinion; unless you are a cyclist, a taxi driver, or a homeowner with missiles on your roof.  It's also good to note that 7500 folks took the time to help make Mary Poppins fly while thousands more are unemployed and can't even get a ticket to go.

Blackfox's picture

It was to celebrate the NHS and our industry.The irony was lost on most people.(NHS has been all but privatised in the last few years)


rvremi's picture

UK is less socialist than USA is communist. They don't have centralized planification of economy yet ! That's the only reason why they are better noted than the USA by S&P.

tony wilson's picture




"Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,--
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble."


hail danny zombie man boyle boil.

hail to the energy power of kidnapped kids under castle ley line  ground

hail mighty little mason

hail virgin blood 

hail slow death

sieg hail  satan





How the Olympics Screw You

A Nanny Moose's picture

Bread and Circuses for the taxpayers to cheer on their fellow tax livestock.

q99x2's picture

 4 billion people will tune in to watch some portion of the 2012 Olympic Games.

I think he meant 4 Billion - 1 because I had the cable shut off last month as a compromise for being able to continue eating.


Racer's picture

If you don't dress correctly and wear competitors of the sponsors logos you will not let you in to see the games

Sudden Debt's picture

and you can only eat french fries at mcdonals... everywhere else it's banned in London...

Itch's picture

I still swing my club in elaborate routines...and the more i swing it the bigger it looks.

Sudden Debt's picture

actually, we had a dwarf tossing event 2 weeks ago in Belgium. some morons where actually against it... those guys just don't realize that it's pretty hard to throw a 80 pound dwarf 4 meters away!
no wonder people are getting fat... they try to ban all the real sports....

The Axe's picture

Those Scots that throw a telephone pole, Floridian Indians that alligator wrestle , Rugby get my vote...  also jello wrestling with two hot chicks would be a nice addition


hannah's picture

i find the comment about dwarf tossing insulting as i am a little person... furthermore i am a transgender little piss off!

shovelhead's picture

Okay, No problem...

We drop the dwarf tossing event and add a salad tossing event .

Happy now?

digalert's picture

I'm watching the Indy 500 where they can tune in and talk to the pit crew and driver that's racing at 200mph, all on the! Now NBC says "live streaming the olympic opening on the internet and TV is too technical to explain. So the US will get tape delay".

knukles's picture

NBC Nighty News (cough)
Tape Delay (modification, redaction, propaganda, managed history)
NBC Today Show (wtf?)
America's Got Talent (hooray!)
Donald Trump & The Apprentice (Jesus God please help us...)
Conan O'Brien (very unfunny, graduated to TwhateverBSNT)
Keith Olberman!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tape Delay?
How about Permanent Static?

ebear's picture

These games suck.  Where's the Aztec Football and Christian Lion Wrestling?

cbxer55's picture

I'll not waste one minute of my life watching these stupid games. 

My time would be better spent watching grass grow, or paint drying.  ;-0

knukles's picture

Or smonking grass and huffing paint?

cbxer55's picture

The extent of my "sins" is cigars and hard liquor, done while watching grass grow or paint dry.

There ain't no grass in cigars, just leafs. And didn't ya know, huffing paint is bad for your health!

EvlTheCat's picture

If I had my choice in huffing paint or huffing post.  I would rather loose brain cells from the paint.  Both may retard you, but the paint takes longer.

Bringin It's picture

cbxer55 there's no grass in grass ...

Yen Cross's picture

 Is it just ME, or did the "Opening Ceremonies" look like they were choreographed by a "Left Wing Gorrilla", on acid?

knukles's picture

Gosh... was I in the same trip?

MsCreant's picture

Or a left wing guerrilla on acid. Now there would be some fireworks.

Yen Cross's picture

 I think you meant " sparklers ".  I'm pleased to see you're honing that pencil, for the next trading session. I'm pretty sure " it was "Gorrilla", Monkey, Lemur ect... As in devolved.<

TrillionDollarBoner's picture

They did. With maybe a quick snort of DMT in places.

Quinvarius's picture

If the Olympics were worth watching, the XGames never would have happened.  They are like a really bad movie with never ending sequels.  

JR's picture

Until 1948, the Olympic Games always included medals for literature and the arts. From the very beginning, however, artists and authors complained that this was simply amateur status for cultural skills and those who had proven themselves refused to enter, leaving the competition to less than stellar entrants. One of the biggest complaints from the people of the arts was that they were going to be judged by athletic types and nothing could be more humiliating. An NPR story said that modern day students of literature and the arts could review the entire list of former medal winners and probably never see a name they recognized.

As for Britain’s economic boost, the UK Guardian.25 July 2012 reports it’s unlikely the gains will be lasting. Also, from past Olympics history, when the Games are over, hosts are left with uneconomical structures, monumental debt and huge inconveniences for that portion of the population and businesses that didn’t support or benefit from the Olympics.

Said the Guardian:

The Olympic Games could drag Britain out of recession – but economists reckon, and history shows, that any boost is likely to be short-lived and the economy could be backpedalling again by the end of the year.

Analysts already expect the economy to rebound, after bad weather and an extra day of holiday over the Jubilee led to a 0.7% fall in GDP in the second quarter. Capital Economics says an influx of foreign sports fans as well as Britons stocking up on cold beer and souvenir mascots could help lift GDP by 0.3% in the coming weeks, helping the economy grow by 0.8% in the third quarter.

But that is likely to be only a temporary boost. Samuel Tombs of Capital Economics says: "There are bigger factors at play. The eurozone is one of the biggest constraints on growth." He forecasts a 0.4% drop in GDP in the final quarter, meaning the UK would shrink by 0.5% this year…

Any downturn could continue into next year. Research by Citigroup shows an upturn in GDP before Games tends to be followed by slower growth in the following six months. The bank recently mined the data from Games dating back to Tokyo in 1964. Its economist Michael Saunders found that growth tends to rise in the run-up to the tournament, but the effect often starts to fall away even before the games begin, and growth afterwards tends to be weaker.

Example: “Australia saw a 16% rise in visitors in September 2000 when the Sydney Games were held; but visits then declined for three years afterwards.”