The Sports Entrepreneurs Podcast by Marcus Luer

Terrence Burns, “Olympic Marketing Unpacked”

July 28, 2021

Terrence Burns is best known as the “Bidding Guy” (in his own words), having supported and worked on more successful Olympic bids than anyone else in the industry. Lots of great stories and learn from his incredible experiences at Delta Airlines (which inspired several books) to working with sponsors and brands across the world. Great insights into the Olympic Games, from bidding processes and how it has changed, to branding the Games, to emotions which describes what the Rings mean to people.  Enjoy the history lesson of the Games while watching the Tokyo Olympics 2020-21.   


Key Highlights

  1. Starting at the bottom of Delta Airlines fresh out of College –  Maintenance Utility Employee & working his way up the ranks over a period of 15 years 
  2. Official Airline of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta – how it all started 
  3. Leading Delta’s sponsorship program of the Games, massive learning curve.  Key setting clear KPI’s, to manage the board expectations
  4. Moving from being a Client to the Agency side with Meridien Management, official marketing agency of the IOC
  5. Joining Founders Chris Welton and Laurent Scharapan as Sn. VP Marketing – commissioned first proper research on the IOC and Olympic brand  
  6. McDonald’s five Cheeseburger Olympic story to illustrate the change in thinking
  7. Sponsors have to tell a story to show consumers why they are involved and build the connection.  The fee is just the entry ticket to the party. 
  8. Celebrate Humanity Campaign with Robin Williams 
  9. Talking numbers of Olympic programs in early 2000 – both for the TOP and LOC program 
  10. Salt Lake City crisis and how it turned around through “research lead facts” with sponsors 
  11. Losing Moscow Bid, character building and leading to the next gig – Sochi 
  12. Partnering with Frank Craighill, one of the foundering partners of ProServe (Donald Dell’s Agency) and Chris Walton to launch Helios (adding Chris Renner, Prescient later)
  13. Success with Five Olympic bids & 2 World Cups , bringing Wrestling & Golf back into the Games, Asian Games, etc – helping to steer those bids and creating the stories around it
  14. PyeongChang winning bidding story vs Munich’s losing story 
  15. New IOC approach to decide on future locations – no longer beauty parades, now Executive Board looks at which cities reflect the Olympic Values and best location for the movement 
  16. Emotional Senegal story – Olympics means “hope” 
  17. Asian Games gig – a balancing act – Doha 2030 and Saudi Arabia 2034
  18. Current focus for him – working with Sponsor on the great decade of global Sports for North America, from the 2026 World Cup to the 2028 LA Olympics to potentially the Winter Olympics in 2030
  19. Basic advice to sponsors – don’t sign the BTA (Basic Terms of Agreement) before you get advice from an expert
  20. Latest numbers, US$ 200 million fees for TOP or LOC programs (4 year cycle) – the ratio of fees to activation investment debate
  21. LA Bid about the next 100 years of the Olympic movement 
  22. Sochi story – the US$ 50 billion number unpacked 
  23. Tokyo 2020-21 thoughts to wrap it up – differences in sponsor mind set in Japan or China vs the US market


About Terrence Burns

I have a long history in Olympic marketing, dating from 1993. My background is unique, and includes: 

  1. A combination of sponsorship consulting/sales, Olympic and World Cup bidding, Olympic Agreement negotiation, and international sports branding and communications.
  2. Serving "on all sides of the table" - as an Olympic sponsor, as a rights holder with the IOC/Meridian, and as a consultant to bidding cities and nations, rights holders and sponsors around the world.
  3. Advising clients as varied as Allianz, the Australian Rugby Union, Australian Football Federation, Samsung, Petro-Canada, the City of Moscow, BHP Billiton, TNT China, Bell Canada, Dow Chemical, Nissin Foods, the International Olympic Committee, and the International Paralympic Committee to name but a few.
  4. Directing Delta Air Lines' highly successful sponsorship of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.
  5. Joined the IOC’s then-new external marketing agency, Meridian Management SA after the Atlanta Games where I served as Senior Vice President – Marketing, responsible for managing the marketing and client servicing relationships with the IOC’s global TOP Partners.
  6. At Meridian, I helped spearhead the first-ever global assessment and positioning of the Olympic Brand, resulting in the IOC’s first brand image campaign, “Celebrate Humanity”.
  7. Served as the lead brand and marketing consultant for the successful Beijing 2008, Vancouver 2010, Sochi 2014, PyeongChang 2018, and Los Angeles 2028 Olympic bids, the 2018 Russia FIFA World Cup & United 2026 FIFA World Cup bids, and the Doha 2030 Asian Games bid.
  8. Served as the lead brand strategist for Golf and Wrestling’s bids to return to the Olympic Games.


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