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Global Athlete urges sponsors to back Olympians into 2021, USOPC offers free extensions

(Photo by Kyodo News via Getty Images)

Athletes organisation Global Athlete has urged sponsors to keep up payments to Olympic athletes through the Games in 2021.

Rob Koehler, director general of Global Athlete told SportBusiness that athletes and National Olympic Committees (NOCs) have very different priorities in the wake of Tokyo 2020’s postponement.

The positioning contrasts with the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), which has now offered to extend its sponsorships without further payments.

Koehler said: “We would encourage sponsors to extend and support athletes and maintain payments for the simple reason that many athletes have little or no money even to pay the rent. The federations, on the other hand, generally have reserves in place that will protect them for months.”

Koehler said he didn’t know how many athletes will receive extra support from governments or NOCs, but hoped brands would follow the example of Visa and P&G who have committed to their athlete endorsement programmes up to the new date for Tokyo 2020 next summer.

Global Athlete is so concerned by the impact of Tokyo 2020’s postponement on athletes it has issued a survey to collect data on the financial and mental health of the athlete community.

Koehler said: “We need to get the data fast so that we can take stock of the current situation. The survey will be translated into all of the UNESCO languages as well as a few others and we will distribute through our global network.”

As reported yesterday (Thursday), the USOPC and US Olympic and Paralympic Properties (USOPP), the entity charged with marketing and selling combined commercial assets after Tokyo 2020 up to Los Angeles 2028, has proposed a different solution to its sponsors, offering them the option to extend for no extra charge until after the Games in 2021.

All 20 of Team USA’s sponsors are set to expire at the end of the year. Bloomberg reported that just three of the 20 – United Airlines, Liberty Mutual Group and MilkPEP – have contracts that conflict with new sponsors in their category with deals that start in 2021.

The USOPC’s plan aligns broadly with the initial guidance to NOCs provided by the International Olympic Committee on how to handle potential sponsorship extensions. Timo Lumme, managing director of the IOC television and marketing services, said earlier this month the IOC was in the process of drawing up guidelines which will cover the principles on a global level.

He said: “In general, what we will be coming up with is that NOCs will, in the main, be free to take the decision whether they want to extend a local partnership or partnerships that have been in place.”