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Foreword by Sir Martin Sorrell

There is no higher prize in the sporting world than to be an Olympic champion. No other event combines the very best of our sporting and cultural ideals. Yet, the power of the Olympics goes beyond sport: they are a celebration of humanity.

Today, we tend to take the Olympics for granted. We are not surprised that so many of the greatest cities in the world now want to host the Olympic Games, or that children grow up just dreaming of competing – let alone winning – at the Games. That, we assume, is the way it has always been. But it wasn’t always so. Just 25 years ago, one of the world’s greatest institutions was on the brink of extinction. That it survived at all is due to the vision and hard work of a few individuals. Olympic Turnaround recounts their story and also provides an inside view of the creation of the multi $ billion sports marketing industry.

No one is better positioned to tell that story than Michael Payne. Under the leadership of IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, Michael was one of those responsible for creating the Olympic marketing programme that took the Olympics from a cash strapped amateur event on the brink of bankruptcy to the greatest sports spectacle in the world. More recently, he was responsible for negotiating the multi billion TV rights deals up to 2012.

As the Wall Street Journal observed: “Samaranch allowed Payne to completely transform the Olympic Games in order to achieve a fiscal stability that no one else dreamed possible.”

I first met Michael in the early 1990s in the run up to the Barcelona Olympic Games. At the time, he was the IOC’s Marketing Director – a role that did not exist until his appointment. Not only was Michael integral to the creation of TOP, the Olympic sponsorship programme that, together with sales of the TV rights, allowed the Olympics to break free of its political purse strings, he was also the IOC’s brand champion – and chief enforcer.

From the start, Michael recognised the emotional, human and financial worth of the Olympic Movement. The five Olympic rings are one of the most powerful images in the world. They epitomise the aspiration and ambition of athletes everywhere. Their personal endeavours and stories also touch all of those who watch them. Over the years they have provided many unforgettable moments: moments that define the indomitable Olympic spirit.

From a marketing point of view, too, the Olympic Games are beyond value. No wonder, then, companies are prepared to go to enormous lengths to be associated with the Olympic rings. For the official sponsors and the TV companies that possess the broadcast rights to the Games, the rewards can be spectacular. An Olympic year has always been good for the advertising industry – and can and does transform the financial health of the advertising industry.

But it is because they remain true to the Olympic ideal that the rings retain their magical aura. The Olympic brand in all its associations has to strike a delicate balance between financial stability and selling out to the god of Mammon. That it has managed to do so is a testament to the way the brand has been developed, nurtured and protected over the past two decades.

This is Michael’s account of a remarkable period of Olympic and sports marketing history. Packed with previously untold stories and case studies, it is a unique business story, but one with universal applications. It offers important insights into the future of the Olympic franchise and branding in general. The lessons – and mistakes – are here for all to learn from. It is also a fascinating historic account, written by someone who was there.

As someone who advises companies on their marketing and communications strategies, I can testify to the continuing power of the Olympic brand. There is perhaps no better case study, than what the Olympics has done for Samsung one of WPP’s clients, helping to catapult the brand to global market leadership in less than eight years.

I can personally testify to the unique emotional symbolism of the Olympics. I have been one of the very fortunate few to carry the Olympic torch on its journey to the Games. It is a deeply moving experience – and something I will never forget. Michael calls the torch the magic wand of the Olympic brand, guaranteed to move even the most hardened CEO. I can attest to its power.

As the world turns its attention to China, and the prospect of the Beijing Games in 2008, Olympic Turnaround could not be more timely. With China emerging from isolation to take its rightful place on the world stage, the Beijing Games mark a watershed in global commerce and international relations.

China’s ambition to host the Games will have taken over a century to be realised. But a no less remarkable achievement will also be celebrated at the Beijing Games: the triumphant resurgence of the Olympic Movement itself.

Sir Martin Sorrell
London, 2005.

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