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businesses (SMBs) profitably leverage Olympic momentum - we have no
Regional Business News
regarding the 2010 Olympics
in British Columbia, Canada
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especially in Vancouver / Whistler and throughout B.C. We also
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IN THIS ISSUE
FERRY TERMINALS - OLYMPIC HUBS
CULTIVATING FEAR - AN OLYMPIC LEGACY
VANOC VS ESSO - BEHIND THE SCENES
RBC - THE LOST & FOUND OLYMPICS
- 10 TIPS
MORTGAGE RATES & COST
OF LIVING "UP",
B.C. WAGES NOT KEEPING "UP"
AMERICANS DOING BUSINESS IN CANADA
Seattle & Portland
Explore Olympic Opportunities
FERRY TERMINALS Olympic
This is rich. No, I mean it.
This is rich - for Olympic organizations.
It's too coincidental that ferry officials are threatening to lock down
the terminal at Horseshoe Bay. They insist it will be a security challenge
if travelers are allowed to leave the terminal to stroll around the village
or go for a bite in one of the many fine epicurean establishments overlooking
the water. (Troll's,
and the Spirit
Gallery next door are two of my favorite haunts while waiting for
Don't be surprised to hear that ferries and terminals are going to become
licensed Olympic sales centers -- floating podiums to sell hats, buttons,
t-shirts, and probably Olympic food. If it happens local SMBs will once
again be edged out of the five-ring loop. I smell protest.
AN OLYMPIC LEGACY
Have you noticed recently that the police chief and local media are doing
a good job of frightening us regarding all the crime in our region? It's
no accident and it doesn't have as much to do with the upcoming mayoral
election as you might think. There is a bigger picture. It's a tactic
that all police forces and mayoral offices use to increase funding for
the Olympics. First you scare the kid into thinking there is a terrible
monster under the bed, and then you offer a solution - for a price.
It works every time.
It starts innocently with "gentrification" and cleansing of
marginalized neighborhoods. Everyone feels good about removing the blight.
Hmm, I love that "gentrification" word. As Seinfeld would say,
Salsa, it just feels good to say it." If the Games weren't coming
to town you can bet we'd be trundling along like we always have, but now
that the world is coming to our doorstep we have to put on our best business
attire. And considering we've gone overnight from have-not to overblown
confidence we're going to have to shop for some new duds. The stuff hanging
in the closet is a little ragged and dated.
I'm not complaining about the prospect of improving neighborhoods and
making some parts of our region more civilized because it is long overdue,
but the three-card monte used to shuffle money around and not claim it
as an Olympic expense peeves me. If money is going to be spent to improve
the region relative to the Games, then it should be invoiced accordingly
and not sold to taxpayers as something that would be done even if the
Olympics was not coming to town.
You should be concerned because if improvements are made as an Olympic
expense then Olympic money will pay for it, which means it could come
from sponsors or federal coffers. If Olympic organizations insist that
it has nothing to do with operating the Games then local taxpayers and
SMBs pick it up. That's a pretty good reason to pay close attention to
who is scaring you, and why.
VANOC VS ESSO
BEHIND THE SCENES
John Furlong, CEO VANOC is at it again. Saying one thing, but doing another.
Furlong claims he doesn't want to come across as heavy-handed, but once
again businesses accuse him of bullying.
The difference this time is that Furlong is at least picking on someone
his own size. If you recall, the last time VANOC was accused of bullying
it was targeted at the Olympia Restaurant on Denman Street and its co-owner
Mosi Alvand. This time it is ESSO Canada and, wait for it ... Hockey Canada.
It seems that Furlong and his bastion of lawyers do not want Canadian
businesses to refer in even the most casual way to the Olympics. Apparently
VANOC thinks they can promote and pay for 2010 on their own - without
the support of Canadians. That's an odd assumption considering the Olympics
needs tens of thousands of volunteers to make this work, not to mention
federal, provincial and municipal tax dollars. The resounding message
from Furlong is, VANOC will do this, and we will do it on our terms. Either
you are with us, or against us.
The people lining up behind Furlong are wealthy corporations that pay
multimillions of dollars to monopolize Olympic Spirit. Interestingly though,
the "You are against us" line is made up primarily of small
and midsize business owners, and it is quickly getting longer.
In the past, Olympic Spirit was a commodity reluctantly financed by taxpayers
and small businesses, but profited from mostly by large corporations.
Thankfully that dynamic is changing. Today taxpayers and small businesses
have more control. Some of the smart ones are even reaping the rewards.
Furlong is pretty slick in how he referred to what he perceived to be
the problem. He called Esso Canada (Imperial Oil) "Olympic pretenders"
instead of what he really wanted to say, "ambush marketers."
Labeling Esso and Hockey Canada ambush marketers is outwardly confrontational,
and accusing them of undermining Olympic Spirit by using the "ambush"
word is not a good PR move. Still, Furlong forced Imperial Oil to back
down by manipulating media into helping him intimidate the oil company.
He tried it with Mosi
Alvand at the Olympia Restaurant and it blew up in his face. This
time it worked for Furlong because people don't like big gas companies
they way they like Mosi, plus the Olympia Restaurant was there first.
VANOC thinks Esso and Hockey Canada engaged in ambush marketing. Well
big deal. Everyone does it.
Hosting the Games is a lot of hassle to put up with for the Vancouver
/ Whistler region and our small and midsize businesses. Especially considering
that it will cost taxpayers and SMBs dearly. For starters ask the SMBs
on the Cambie/RAV line what they think.
The Olympics should serve everyone, not just the players who can afford
to ante up 60 million smackers or more.
If you haven't seen the Esso ads (and you probably won't if you haven't
already because the contest prize has been modified) you're going to be
surprised when you see that the manufactured hullabaloo was all about
Esso's patriotic slogan, "Cheer on Canada" and the chance to
win tickets to see Team Canada play in Torino during the 2006 Games this
February. That's it. Nothing more. No interlocking rings, no torch. Furlong
is basically saying, "Heh, shut the hell up. This is my game and
you get off the ice. You are not invited to participate in Olympic Spirit
unless you pony up a minimum of 60 million dollars.
Furlong yelled loudly behind corporate doors through a megaphone of corporate
lawyers. When that didn't work he used media to embarrass Esso into backing
down. He also very astutely muddied the waters to draw the public's attention
away from the petty legal issue, which was that Esso was using Olympic
tickets as a giveaway. Does this mean that if a company buys a car to
give away as a grand prize they can't do so without the permission of
GM, what about an iPOD or a trip to Cozumel?
According to media reports Esso quickly adjusted the contest in order
to comply. Adjusted is an understatement. I called Imperial Oil's media
relations department on November 7, 2005 at 3:00 pm Pacific time and spoke
with a lady named Emilie in New Brunswick. We searched together online
for an official notice on both the Esso and Imperial Oil websites, but
to no avail. When we couldn't find anything she read to me an internal
memo stating that Esso had pulled the promotion and all reference to Torino.
In place of the grand prize is now a $55,000 cash award. All I can say
is wow, nice slap in the chops John. Not just anyone can so smartly intimidate
an oil company. I bow to you.
Here's how he did it. In an effort to garner public sympathy Furlong first
turned the petty issue from using Olympic hockey tickets as a prize into
one of Esso attacking the welfare of poor athletes. It's common for Olympic
organizations to drag their elite athletes front and centre and leverage
them as iconic spokespeople when they need to manipulate the masses. Just
like clockwork Olympian Mark Tewksbury stepped up and pleaded on behalf
of defenseless athletes in Canada. Furlong knew it was important to convince
us that VANOC is the great defender of oppressed athletes. The reality
is that Olympic organizations do not support athletes as much as they
would have you believe. Olympic organizations of their
own admission favor elite athletes as evidenced in a recent statement
from Furlong when he said to amateur athletes, "if you DO NOT win
gold, you are empty handed" which implies ... you have nothing --
you are a loser.
Imperial Oil spokesperson Gordon Wong was quoted saying he is "surprised
and disappointed" that Furlong made such a heavy-handed attack on
Esso. The statement also came from Richard Farrell, external relations
manager at Imperial Oil who added they would have preferred a more diplomatic
Large corporations leverage Olympic momentum regularly.
What Olympic organizations call ambush marketing, other members of the
business world call leveraging momentum. For example one of the most memorable
"leveraging" campaigns came from Nike when they said, "You
don't win silver. You lose Gold." Boy do they have that right. The
Mars chocolate bar company also did it and so did AMEX and Qantas Airlines,
plus many more over the years. Even more recently, do you remember the
Air Canada and Toyo Tire commercials that ran last summer during Athens
Air Canada ran a sports-related ad on television featuring synchronized
swimmers and at the end of the spot in barely legible typeface they said,
"We are proud sponsors of this broadcast." Have you ever seen
synchronized swimmers associated with anything but the Olympics? Brilliant.
The tag line "We are proud sponsors of" draws people into finishing
the line with "the Olympics." TOYO Tires also had a tag line
at the end of a television spot that said, "Proud sponsors of the
Canadian Track and Field team". Gotcha again. Because the ad ran
during the 2004 Games in Athens viewers mistakenly assumed it was Olympic
related. It is a fine art.
Even the Vancouver Sun got into the game last spring with SUNRUN 2005.
In the heat of Olympic frenzy they used a 2005 logo with interlocking
different colored "00's" between the 2 and the 5 and a picture
of running athletes to represent the run. Do you also remember the Telus
campaign in the spring of 2005 with the Toucan bird holding a gold medal
in its beak? The accompanying slogan was, "Turn Paper into Gold."
This campaign was launched when it was announced Bell won an Olympic sponsorship
bid. Talk about leveraging Olympic momentum. Everyone is doing it.
Regarding the Nike Silver/Gold slogan, here's an excerpt from my book
about leveraging Olympic momentum that explains in more detail what transpired
. . .
"Many small and large companies over the years have recognized the
potential of marketing momentum and have sometimes too brazenly resorted
to ambush marketing. Most of the time, if it's planned properly it works
better than most companies expect, but occasionally ambush marketing backfires
too, so you have to be careful. Nike found itself against the wall when
they developed a campaign with the tagline, "You don't win silver.
You lose gold." What a brilliant slogan! It summed up Olympic greed
succinctly. Understandably, the IOC thought it was an inappropriate slogan
to use during the Atlanta Games and they pressured Nike to pull the ad.
Nike refused, but there was nothing the IOC could legally do to stop them
so they resorted to embarrassment. The IOC threatened to hold a press
conference and invite silver medallists to attend and tearfully ask why
Nike would devalue their life's dream. Nike backed off. They had the right
idea, but the wrong execution. Attaching themselves to Olympic energy
gave them visibility. Unfortunately they made the tragic mistake of doing
it at the expense of struggling athletes. Nike soon learned to create
campaigns that aligned themselves favorably with the stars of the show
(athletes). Smart move. It's also a move SMBs can leverage and one that
gets them into the inner circle. Support your local athlete and they will
support you. The difference today is that you can do it on your terms
without the permission or help from the IOC or your local Olympic committee.
Just do it - and do it online with the partnership of athletes.
"You don't win silver. You lose gold." The irony is that the
IOC promotes this exact climate and Nike opportunistically decided to
leverage it. Nike simply stated the IOC version of the truth -- second
place is the loser. Thanks to the IOC, only gold is worthy of merit and
the big dollar promotion contracts that come with it. Thanks to the IOC
does anyone today care who placed second or third? Does it really matter
to anyone anymore that an athlete received a silver or bronze medal? What
happened? Who skewed our perception of what it means to win or lose? It
certainly wasn't the athlete or the sport fan. Was it media? Can we make
media a scapegoat one more time? The only place to look is the IOC and
their sponsors. Sponsors if you remember who are managed by shareholders."
End of expert . . .
Unbelievably, one day after the Esso fiasco boiled over, Furlong, in an
effort to gain public favor and manipulate the masses bought a full page
color ad in the Vancouver Sun that stated, "This week, Bell's $15
million commitment to support our athletes in their quest for excellence
demonstrates their leadership position in Canadian business and is an
inspiration for Canadian athletes to go for gold. In this world of millisecond
and millimeter differences between winning a medal and "going home
empty handed", the science of sport technology plays a critical role."
How's that John? Are you agreeing with Nike? "You don't win Silver.
You lose Gold? Furlong's statement of "going home empty handed"
implies that if you don't win a gold medal you are an empty handed loser.
Nice John. Maybe we should get a few Canadian silver medallists together
so you can tell them to their faces that you think they're losers. I'll
call Karen Cockburn, Jake Wetzel, Barney Williams, Cameron Baerg, Thomas
Herschmiller, Alexandre Despatie, Ross Macdonald, Mike Wolfs, Marie-Helene
Premont and Tonya Verbeek to let them know where you want to meet. Next
time you want to make a public statement maybe you should first run it
by VANOC puppet master IOC President Jacques Rogge.
Don't believe Furlong when he says he gallantly defends all athletes.
It is clear after this statement that he puts Olympic sponsors and elite
athletes first, ahead of the Vancouver / Whistler community, and especially
the bulk of Canadian athletes. Local media must quit playing into his
hands. Just because Furlong can afford to buy full-page ads in your publications
doesn't mean you should sell it to him without at least running a parallel
editorial that explains exactly what he's doing. Media has a responsibility
to illuminate both sides of the picture.
Most Canadians don't know it, but it cost Australian taxpayers $40 million
per gold medal to own their podium. (In 2000 on their home turf they won
58 medals total including 16 gold, 25 silver and 17 bronze -- do the math.)
Hopefully Bell and all the other corporate sponsors like RBC, Rona, HBC
and most recently GM will pick up the tab so taxpayers and small business
don't get stuck with it.
Own the Podium?
How about own your home or own your business?
BTW, according to reports issued by the Business Council of B.C. wages
in our province have consistently grown slower than anywhere in Canada
except Manitoba. We experienced a measly per capita disposable income
growth rate of 11% while the rest of Canada averaged 20%. When disposable
income growth stagnates as costs rise where do you think mortgage-strapped
consumers are going to find money to purchase our products and services.
If SMBs are looking for an incentive to leverage Olympic momentum this
Big businesses know the Olympic frenzy window is small and they act accordingly.
Unfortunately, not many small and midsize businesses have figured it out
yet, but they will. It's still a well-kept secret except in places like
Sydney Australia where SMBs with the help of their Chamber of Commerce
and councilors got a pretty good handle on it in 2000. They regularly
put Olympic organizations in their place. The Aboriginal saga was the
turning point. Australian Aboriginals weren't about to be taken advantage
of or sold out and they expressed themselves very clearly through the
"sorry" campaign. It changed forever how small players can impact
and become involved in the Games. First Nation peoples in Canada should
pay particular attention. It's hard to accept that suddenly Premier Gordon
Campbell is riding to their rescue for no other reason than to be a good
guy wanting to help out a race of people who've been insulted and ignored
for decades. The timing is too coincidental.
Personally, I could care less that the two overgrown VANOC / Esso lizards
went head to head in a Japanese Godzilla fest, especially considering
that gas is going up to $1.65 this week. (Just kidding. I wanted to see
if you were paying attention. LOL . . . sorry, it's not funny is it?)
It makes it hard to criticize Furlong when he's slapping a gas company
around. It's like watching Ted Turner and Conrad Black fight. I'm cheering
for both to get socked in the noggin simultaneously, but I really want
Furlong to be taught the bigger lesson. He needs to learn that he can't
continue to bully on the playground.
Furlong may have bullied Esso into submission, but he has it wrong. Instead
of making enemies of Canadian companies he should be working together
with everyone big and small in an effort to see how the 2010 Olympics
can be good for everyone, and not just his BIG BOX players. VANOC's first
commitment should be to the local community, then Canada, and then to
I wouldn't mind it as much if corporate sponsors like Bell, Rona, HBC,
GM and RBC guarantee to pick up the overruns we are already accruing,
and if they also ensure that taxes and rents do not go through the roof
as a result of the Games. But so far I haven't heard a peep from corporate
boardrooms on this level, and historically no one in any other Olympic
region has ever heard it either.
What you do hear though is boasting from large sponsors about how they
grow their visibility and in turn make billions of dollars profit off
the backs of athletes and taxpayers. That's a given. NBC sold advertising
to 4 billion viewers in Athens last year, while Greece careened into twelve
billion dollars of debt.
The reality of owning and operating a business in an Olympic region is
finally starting to hit home for Vancouverites and Vancouvians. VANOC's
first response in each case has been to bully, intimidate and embarrass,
and unfortunately some media still foolishly provide them with a platform
to do so. It happens in almost every single Olympic region. It is a formula.
VANOC also knows that the more noise they make clashing with large corporations,
the least likely small and midsize businesses will try similar marketing
strategies. When the king of the castle makes a lot of noise and threatens
to cut off heads it washes through the fiefdom like a tsunami. It's old
school that worked well in pre-internet era, but those days are slipping
away. My advice is, now that you know how they operate learn to leverage
Here's the twist. Esso got the publicly they wanted; i.e. 1/ everyone
in Canada was reminded or now knows Esso has supported Hockey Canada for
over two decades; 2/ we all now know about the Esso Torino 2006 promotion;
3/ Esso looks like the good guy for acknowledging and backing off after
making a silly little mistake; and 3/ VANOC defended elite athletes .
. . everyone saved face and one of Canada's largest gas companies still
looks good considering gas is going up to $1.65. LOL!
* We invested two years and a six-figure budget researching Olympic
organization relationships with sponsors, contractors, suppliers, partners,
etc. The results surprised us too -- mouseover below
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Olympic organizations are
BIG BUSINESS MACHINES that attract corporations like CocaCola,
McDonald's, Wal*Mart, etc. Consequently, VANOC (Vancouver Organizing
Committee) will be stretched thin trying to also develop ways to assist
small and midsize businesses leverage Olympic momentum. Surprisingly,
many people don't realize the event can also be lucrative for smaller
businesses including agriculture, manufacturers, entertainment, technology,
retail & obviously tourism, even when they don't have products
or services that appeal to Olympic fans or serve a direct Olympic need.
The information we share here is invaluable in helping
small and midsize businesses leverage Olympic momentum.
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