Four of the top Olympic sponsors are set to axe their financial support after the Beijing Games close today.
The failure of these global companies – including Kodak, which has backed the Olympics since they were revived in 1896 – to extend their sponsorship is a serious blow for London as it seeks finance for 2012.
Manulife, the Canadian financial services company, is among those ending its sponsorship, along with the Chinese computer group Lenovo. Johnson & Johnson is also expected to announce shortly that it is cutting its Olympic spending.
The International Olympic Committee has 12 "worldwide partners" in different businesses and most continue from one set of Games to the next.
These top sponsors pay up to £50m each, with organisers of London's 2012 Games receiving a large part of that money. London is also separately recruiting national sponsors, including Lloyds TSB, BT, and British Airways. It had hoped to secure all its sponsors before the Beijing Games close today, but is only about halfway to its £650m target. Some marketing experts say it is asking too much, especially with a recession looming.
Lesa Ukman, chairman of IEG, a US sponsorship consultancy in the WPP group, said: "London is looking at numbers that are impossible to justify. The price of the Games is going through the roof, based not on the value potential that is extractable but on the committee's ideas of what can be charged – which has nothing to do with what you can get as a return. It is absurd."
London 2012's website last week boasted support from all 12 worldwide partners backing Beijing, but four companies' logos were later hastily removed.
Kodak has been a top sponsor since 1986 but its support dates from the first modern Games. It boasts: "Virtually every great moment in Olympic history has been recorded on Kodak film."
However, an executive said yesterday: "Our transformation to a digital company has transformed our business model from a company that was largely focused on sales directly to consumers to one heavily weighted to business-to-business." Kodak is taking on other sponsorships, such as the PGA golf tour.Reuse content