OlyBLOG - strategies to help small & midsize businesses (SMBs) profitably leverage Olympic momentum - we have no Olympic affiliation

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Regional Business News
regarding the 2010 Olympics
in British Columbia, Canada

OlyBLOG is for businesses across Canada, especially in Vancouver / Whistler and throughout B.C. We also hope companies in Alberta and United States (i.e. Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and California) will find OlyBLOG interesting and informative.

  Leverage Olympic Momentum





I attended a luncheon hosted by the Vancouver Board of Trade on October 19, 2005. The speaker was Craig White, Vice President and Chief Economist of the RBC Financial Group. Wow, can this guy run through numbers. My eyes glazed over listening to him rattle his abacas. He truly is an impressive speaker, and even though I didn't understand everything he said, I know enough that what he did say wasn't new or earth shattering. He's an economist and as such ultra conservative so I wasn't surprised. No one wants a financial guy that takes risks. Key in the numbers, add them up and give me the total. I'll do the rest thank you.

I'm being a little sarcastic, but only because Mr. White wasted my time, and money. The luncheon was advertised as "ROAD TO 2010: B.C.'s economic outlook in the lead up to the Winter Olympics."

It was a very impressive luncheon "title" and consequently everyone at my table expected to hear information relative to the Games, especially considering that the Board of Trade used two Olympic references in the title alone. Plus, and this is a big plus, RBC is an official Olympic sponsor. How could you go wrong? Considering all these hooks, it seemed that at least a smidgen of important Olympic information would be presented during the luncheon.

As usual the event was well hosted by the Board of Trade, plus I met a few interesting people, and was interviewed after the presentation by Monte Stewart for Business Edge, but again, there should have been more substantial information traded regarding the specifics of ramping up for 2010, especially when it was literally advertised as "Craig White will discuss what businesses should consider to ensure they are well-positioned to capitalize on the 2010 Winter Games," and also, "renewed growth brings exciting challenges for business and policy makers to ensure the booming economy doesn't overheat in the lead-up to the 2010 Winter Olympics." Mr. Wright so poorly addressed the last part of his sales hook that the question was posed to him word for word from a member of the audience in the question period. This should tell you something.

Thankfully though, when I expressed my displeasure to the Board of Trade they promptly extended two free tickets to a luncheon of my choice. Classy folk and I thank them.

Now for the really good news!

Less than two days later I found RBC's "missing Olympic information" at the SOHO Fair -- this time in the form of Debbie Intas, Senior Manager, Olympic Business Development for RBC.

Her effervescent personality had the big room buzzing with the excitement of striking it rich in the Olympic goldmine. Entrepreneurs were salivating and wondering how they could partake of the riches. Interestingly though, at the end of her presentation, which quite literally had the audience whipped into a frenzy, when she asked for questions, not one hand went up. I'm sure "speaker coaches" will have an answer for this perplexing outcome, but I'm going to venture a guess that she had everyone a bit disappointed after her explanation of how the Games operate.

On one hand she boldly spoke of the riches that past small and midsize businesses had attained by supplying products and services to the Games, and then in a carefully worded disclaimer she warned everyone that most don't actually profit directly from 2010.

What Debbie should have expressed more clearly is that if you follow Olympic protocol, odds are you won't profit, but if you think outside the rings it is more than possible to not only profit, but also raise the visibility and enlarge the footprint of your business. Unfortunately, but as one would expect considering RBC is an official Olympic sponsor, Debbie never addressed this side of the coin in any detail. She hinted at it, but never explained the process.

More than a few people looked sideways during her presentation wondering what she meant. Many SMBs think you can make a profit by supplying a product or service to VANOC. They assume that if VANOC needs 50,000 chairs for sporting events, or 10,000 meters of security fencing, that they can make a profit supplying the products. They don't equate that dealing with Olympic organizations is dealing with the government, and they often don't make the connection until it's too late.

Debbie stated, and I concur, the greatest value in becoming an Olympic "supplier" isn't in actually making a profit working Olympic projects, the money often comes much later by leveraging the momentum you can create by telling prospects in the years to come that you were an Olympic supplier.

I also contend that because most companies have nothing to offer directly the best and only option is to figure out how to bask in the spotlight being shone on the region. There are opportunities for everyone.

Debbie warned the audience that they shouldn't show up in her office looking for a business loan to work the Games if they don't have; a) vast experience, b) a good business plan (which she failed to mention can cost between $3-10,000), c) a marketing plan, and d) equipment if required.

Debbie's catch phrase, "You Get the Gold When You Cross the Finish Line" was mentioned a number of times throughout her presentation.

Here are other valuable TIPS Debbie shared . . .

Olympic spectators are 24-54 years old and wealthy with a 50/50 male female split, most are professionals - that's good to know. In addition I'd like to add that 18-34 year olds spend a bulk of their time on the internet and rarely read the newspaper. They also spend more time online than they do watching TV.

In Sydney, spectators' average family income was $150K
In Salt Lake City it was $65K

Through our research at OlyBLOG.com we know that spectators are internet savvy - more so than other demographics. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that you can reach these people online before they arrive.

The majority of spectators in Salt Lake City were Americans. This should tell you something. We live next door to Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. It would be in our best interest to remain friends. SMBs should not get too worked up over the soft wood lumber dispute. It benefits big forestry businesses to create controversy over un-refunded tariffs, but it won't do SMBs a lot of good if Americans are so peeved that they decide to pan the Games in 2010.

In Sydney, international tourism more than doubled - think internet again and how to reach spectators in England, China or Australia.

Locals order more take out food. Do you know why? Debbie didn't tell us, but it's because the region becomes so congested that locals do not want to go anywhere. They cocoon. We also learned through research at OlyBLOG.com that spectators rarely eat anywhere other than at Olympic facilities. It's partly because Olympic organizations do such a good job of herding and marketing to spectators, and also because spectators also don't want to fight the crowds. If you want to attract these crowds you're going to have to reach out and entice them. Again - think internet.

Be prepared to sell products and services during the ramp up to the Games when Olympic organizations test facilities. Athletes from other countries also come into the region to train. They are consumers too.

Cultural events will start as early as 2006. Are you ready? This is a huge opportunity to market to local residents. (Read my book to learn more because this will prove to be a very important group for SMBs.)

After the Games are over each of the "athlete's living units" in Olympic Villages will have one room converted to a kitchen. I'm not sure what Debbie was getting at here because you can bet that the contractors building the Villages will have these deals sewn up, but it certainly got a rise out of the crowd. (If Rona supplies the sinks and taps at break-even or free how can you compete with that?)

When managed properly, tourism goes up dramatically two years before and after the Games, and maybe longer. 'Nuff said.

On a side note, Debbie got the room buzzing when she told us that in our midst sat the owner of a local catering company that had won a contract for Torino. When I spoke to the woman later she said she doesn't have a contract, at least not yet and she said maybe never. She merely has kitchen space at the Games in Turin and was paying her own way. However, she was excited to have a spot in front of such a large international crowd and recognized the opportunity as a way to promote her presence and raise her comany's visibility.

Debbie repeatedly mentioned that small companies can do exceptionally well, but she used all the tired old examples we've heard for years, i.e. the knitting company and the porto-pottie suppliers, and offered little new information. BTW, have any of you seen the hundreds and hundreds maybe thousands of porto-potties stored in the field beside Interstate 5 between Vancouver and Seattle? This is a U.S. company that someone in Canada should align with. Tell them I sent you!

Debbie also mentioned one B.C. company that supplied underwater lights during the Games in Athens. By the end of her story we learned that they didn't exactly do well financially at the Games, but they did land a contract with the Greek Navy later, which in itself is quite a coup, plus she left us with a teaser that they are also now negotiating to light the Suez Canal.

The presentation hit a road bump when Debbie mentioned that at past Games, as a licensing fee, 10% of the wholesale revenue generated went to organizations like VANOC, and that suppliers were expected to pay 25% up front based on a projected sum. This can easily translate to $250,000 -- a bit risky for most SOHO entrepreneurs, but if you qualify Debbie will consider you for a loan.

She also mentioned that many swank restaurants close down to host corporate events. I say ... it's good for Olympic corporate VIPs, not good for locals, unless of course you own the restaurant. Then again, you'll probably be cocooning, so it won't matter.

Debbie did make many good points, and if you want to know even more look soon for my upcoming book about leveraging Olympic momentum. You can also find highly detailed information in my manuscript series, which is currently available online. See the Business Strategies link at the end of this page.


On November 5, 2005, the Vancouver Sun ran full-page features about Vancouver residents who are already or about to be drowning in monster mortgages. The articles explained that people who bought homes and condos over the last couple of years during the peak Olympic frenzy are slowly being wedged into a precarious economic position now that interest rates are starting to rise and are trending upwards. It's very responsible of the Sun to share this information now, but where were they a year ago? It's no wonder (according to a report in Vancouver Magazine) that the Sun lost 21,000+ readers between 2003-2004. Unfortunately for Vancouver residents, it seems the Sun was too busy selling advertising space to real estate companies and developers.

For the last year or so if you have been reading OlyBLOG.com you know we've been warning SMBs that the "house-poor" scenario was imminent and that if interest rates rise even moderately it could burst the bubble that mainstream media insists doesn't and can't exist because economists are smarter and would never let it happen -- again. Newspapers like the Sun glorified rising house prices and in effect enticed people to line up and bid against each other on artificially inflated properties. Now many are wondering how they are going to afford a $300,000+ mortgage at what looks like 6% or more by next year. Some even say it could go as high as 9% in an effort to control inflation. Let's hope not.

We are happy that mainstream media is finally starting to heed our warnings and report both sides of the Olympic saga, but we suspect that some of them are only reacting to our criticism because they want to be perceived as responsible. Unfortunately, the damage is done.

We don't have a crystal ball at OlyBLOG.com. We predicated this would happen because we do research. It happens in every Olympic region. We've also been one of the few voices warning SMBs about many other Olympic related challenges that you are about to face, and for those of you have been paying attention over the last couple of years and supporting us we thank you. Stay tuned though because we have much more to come. If you want to make it through the 2010 Olympic spectacle unscathed and in good economic shape stay informed. The more you know the better your chances of growing your business and profiting.

On a side note, but a related media issue, on CityTV on November 4, 2005 news anchor Roger Peterson made a snide comment that Toronto was envious about New York City "regaining" the title as the centre of the universe. It was in relation to a story about lap dogs in NYC, and it is exactly comments like this that perpetuate the myth and animosity between the west and central Canada. I lived in the Toronto area for many years and cannot recall having ever heard a Torontonian utter a disparaging remark about westerners; in fact to the contrary, Torontonians love Vancouverites. However, since living here I have heard many western politicians and media denigrate central Canadians. If you don't like politicians from central Canada say you don't like politicians from central Canada, but don't lump the entire populace under one heading.

It is a serious mistake for B.C. to think they can host the Games without the operational and financial support of all of Canada. If we keep leveling insults at central Canadians we will look silly and hypocritical in 2009 when imploring Ottawa to help us stem Olympic overruns. Regionalism is second cousin to racism. Vancouverites boast to be multicultural, but we don't even show respect for multi-generational residents in central Canada. We are hypocritical if we think we can keep criticizing residents in other parts of Canada, whether it is Winnipeg, Toronto or Newfoundland. It is old thinking and there is absolutely no place for it in modern society. Don't let media and politicians suck you into their negative regionalist black hole. Western politicians often use regionalism as a crutch because they don't know how to negotiate on a national level. We need better politicians in the west. You get what you negotiate, not what you deserve. Please vote with your brain in the upcoming election and when you hear someone using a regional slur, tell him or her it isn't acceptable.

One last point, I've noticed recently that some Vancouverites, especially in the construction industry are leaning in a little closer to Calgarians. In the very recent past Calgarians were also regarded acrimoniously by the "coast," but now that Olympic overruns are welling up Vancouverites are looking to wealthy fossil fuel barons in Alberta to help them own the podium. Apparently, to some Vancouverites Calgarians don't look as redneck as they used to. Isn't it nice that we can finally get along? Group hug.

For the last couple of years we've been cautioning SMBs in B.C. that we cannot possibly do the Olympics alone. This is a Canada wide affair and there is definitely space at the table for the Territories, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and provinces all the way east to Newfoundland, plus the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

All for one and one for all eh.

* 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

  Leverage Olympic Momentum

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midsize businesses face? Click Leverage Olympic Momentum

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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