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IOC Dual Award | Winners & Losers – Part 4: BID CONSULTANCIES

  • Lack of bidding race until 2032 and Thomas Bach’s streamlining campaign threatens consultancy firms
  • Smaller one-man-band lobbyists predicted to struggle
  • JTA doesn’t secure win bonus but aims to advise Los Angeles for next 11 years

Sport finds it difficult to accept the idea of a win-win scenario, never mind the notion of a ‘win-win-win’ outcome for three different competitors.

Like Newtonian physics, the expectation in the sporting universe is that every action will be met with an equal and opposite reaction.

If there is some consensus that the IOC and the cities of Paris and Los Angeles have fared well in the decision to award the 2024 and 2028 editions of the Games at the same time, another popular theory is that this is offset by the bad fortune of the bid consultancies that thrive on open, competitive and regular host city election races.

“The biggest losers in this are all the bid consultants because they're out of business,” says LA bid consultant and former IOC marketing director Michael Payne. He excludes himself from his prognosis by saying that bid consultancy work makes up a just small proportion of his ‘day job’. 

Consultative role

Aside from the absence of another summer Games bidding race until the competition for the 2032 Olympics begins, the greatest threat to these consultancies lies in Thomas Bach’s avowed intention to streamline the Olympic bidding process and do away with the need for expensive advisers altogether.

The leader of the Olympic movement wants the IOC to take a more consultative role and work in partnership with prospective bidders to help them prepare successful campaigns.   

However, one consultant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, predicted that, with stakes so high, cities would continue to try to gain any advantage they could in future bidding races. The consultant also questioned whether a city would see as much value in consulting with an IOC central office that would also be advising its competitors.

Diversified businesses

Whatever happens, Vero Communications and Jon Tibbs Associates (JTA), the two consultancies most readily associated with the successful Paris and Los Angeles bids, are unlikely to go short of work.

For a start, both are diversified businesses who also advise sports federations and whose work with cities extends beyond the Olympics to other event bidding campaigns and the successful hosting of events.

There is also the matter of the 2026 winter Olympics to award and campaigns for the 2032 Olympics could start to seek advice as early as nine to 10 years out from the Games. 

Payne clarifies his comments when he says it is the smaller operations rather than the large consultancies that might struggle. “There are probably a few one-man band lobbyists who are going to have to reinvent themselves,” he says.

Predicting the long-term prospects of any business is difficult, but in the here and now, all of the consultants associated with the Paris and Los Angeles campaigns can claim to be winners.

Although the Paris advisers helped the city to secure the edition of the Games it wanted, Steve Martin, chief executive, M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment, thinks Los Angeles ran the better campaign. 

“I really liked the LA campaign because it showed terrific humility and didn’t try to go the over-the-top Hollywood route,” he says. “I liked the tone of it, it was pretty straight, honest and to the point.”

Strike a deal

Rob Prazmark, president, 21 Sports & Entertainment Marketing Group also credits the advisers behind the Los Angeles bid for having the good sense to strike a deal for the 2028 Games when the political conditions made 2024 a difficulty.

"The LA bid consultants, Terence Burns, Michael Payne and Jonathan Tibbs gave good counsel. They said we’re not going to win 2024,” he says.

“When [Donald] Trump won [the US presidential election], the gap got too big. Payne, Burns and Tibbs knew the IOC and although Casey Wasserman considers himself a maverick and is his own person, he’s been in the business long enough to listen to the three elder statesmen. Larry Probst [United States Olympic Committee chairman and IOC member] was also influential."

Federal tax documents released in June, showed how some of the consultants behind the LA bid had been remunerated for their efforts, even before the city was awarded the 2028 Games.

The documents revealed that the bid committee paid nearly $700,000 to Teneo Strategies, the company of which LA bid adviser Terence Burns is the co-president. The committee also paid $160,000 in consulting fees to former Olympic swimmer Janet Evans and $60,000 to a company owned by LA chief strategy officer Angela Ruggiero. 

The assumption is that the consultancies associated with the Paris bid will have earned a win bonus for securing the 2024 Games, which begs the question as to whether the award of the 2028 Games was sufficient to trigger a similar bonus for those who advised the Los Angeles bid. 

Bigger prize

JTA chairman Jon Tibbs answers in the negative but argues that the consultancy has secured a bigger prize.

 “JTA very much view this as a win. Los Angeles originally went for the 2024 Games but when it became clear that 2028 was a viable option they decided to go for that instead and won, with a significantly favourable deal for the people of LA,” he says. 

“For JTA there is no question about a win bonus. We will not be getting a win bonus for 2028 and nor will we be asking for one.

“However, our sole ambition is to have an 11-year relationship with the city of LA, with the USOC and the organising committee. That is a far greater prize than any modest bonus.”

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