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IE Students Get the Scoop on Olympic Games’ Strategic Partnerships

Senior Manager of Strategic Partnerships, Mark Anthony Conlon gave IE students a behind-the-scenes look into the challenges of marketing, promotion and sponsorship for the Olympic Games.

Senior Manager of Strategic Partnerships for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and IE International MBA 2016 graduate, Mark Anthony Conlon, came back to campus this week to give students an insider’s take on marketing the world’s largest sporting event, the Olympic Games.

The strategic partnerships executive discussed how politics, language barriers, cultural differences and generational changes affect the marketing of the Games. He specifically highlighted challenges due to issues on gender equality, sustainability and online streaming

“We always have to have our values and purpose in mind.”

“We always have to have our values and purpose in mind. The goal is to place sport at the service of harmonious development of human kind.  This is why the Olympic movement is so different,” he said.

Conlon said the political implications of the global event mean the committee continually must navigate trade-offs between member countries, disciplines and sponsors.

“We try to use sports to actually give a voice and try to provide equality as well. Now, we are handling the proposal of adding Kosovo as part of the committee, even if it is not recognized by the UN. The Olympics have that kind of power,” he explained.

Connecting a global product to local partners represents a key challenge for the committee, the senior manager said. The Olympics must balance the global and local nature of the Games, working with a global perspective and cultural sensitivity at the same time.

“The best illustration of how local challenges can become a global legacy are the pictograms. They were developed for Tokyo 1964 when the committee realized they were going to have some language barriers. Now, they are a key element and part of the Olympics branding,” he shared.

Conlon also gave the behind-the-scenes scoop on how the lack of field-of-play advertising affects the marketing of products and how companies adjust to fit the restriction because they deem the Olympics a must in advertising, giving the example of Coca-Cola redesigning bottles for the competition in accordance to the rules.

Ultimately, Conlon, said one of the greatest challenges is connecting with the increasingly tech-savvy youth.

“The Olympics for me are incredible, but because I’ve grown up with them. I don’t know how incredible they are for a 12-year-old today. They have e-sports. That is a whole other world. There’s a lot to be done.”