BERLIN -- Chinese companies are in talks to join the Olympic top sponsor program as the International Olympic Committee seeks to extend its reach in Asia, but also keep a limit on the number of prime sponsors, its marketing chief told Reuters on July 10.
The IOC relies heavily on its TOP program of 11 sponsors who contribute an estimated $100 million each for every two-Games package of one winter and one summer Games.
"We have kept a space open hoping a Chinese company will join," the IOC's marketing chief Gerhard Heiberg told Reuters in an interview. "I hope very much that we will be able to attract a Chinese company.
"We are in contact with several, we want to get a Chinese company," said Heiberg who said he was also talking to South Korean and Japanese companies.
The IOC currently has 11 top sponsors generating almost $1.0 billion over a four-year-period ending with the London Olympics. It has set a limit of 12 sponsors.
Heiberg added a deal with a Chinese company would not happen in time for the London Games later this month, but it would be by 2016 at the latest.
"For London it is too late," he said. "But afterwards, for Sochi 2014 or Rio de Janeiro 2016, a Chinese company as sponsor, yes."
He said the top program had mostly attracted western companies in the past with a tradition and experience in sports marketing but the IOC was eager to become more universal in its sponsoring plan.
"Asian companies and especially Chinese companies did not know what sports marketing was about until they got the (2008 Beijing) Games. They had no tradition in sports marketing," said Heiberg.
"It costs money to be an Olympic sponsor and they have to think if this is the right way to go forward. (South Korea's) Samsung has shown that it can be done successfully for Asian companies as well."
Samsung is one of the top sponsors with a deal until the 2016 Rio Games, just like Atos Origin and Panasonic.
Coca-Cola, Visa, Omega, Dow, GE and Procter & Gamble and McDonald's have signed deals until the 2020 Games.
Taiwan-based computer company Acer is the only leading sponsor that has not so far renewed its sponsorship.
The IOC redistributes over 90 percent of its marketing income -- splitting it between the host, international sporting federations and more than 200 national Olympic committees (NOCs) sending their athletes to the Games.
It is for these reasons, Heiberg said, that their revamped TOP program planned from 2020 onwards was unlikely to increase the number of companies directly linked to the Olympics and the IOC.
"I do not think we should add new sponsors because we should give some categories to organizing committees and NOCs," said Heiberg.
"We should not have the ambition of taking more centrally. Perhaps we should even have fewer sponsors who pay higher prices. That could also be an option."
The IOC generated revenues of $957 million from its 11 leading sponsors for the Winter Games in 2010 in Vancouver and the London Olympics starting next month.
"I think we have a full understanding from our sponsors on this. We are talking to them to see what we should do after 2020."
"Should we change and if yes, how? Radical or small changes, we want to be sure that what we do after 2020 is the right thing at right time," said Heiberg.
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