BMW of North America unveiled a six-year sponsorship of the U.S. Olympic Committee today in a deal reportedly worth $24 million.
The sponsorship will make BMW the U.S. Olympic Committee's first foreign-car sponsor. General Motors Co. ended its support of the Olympics and the U.S. Olympic Committee after the 2008 Beijing Summer Games. GM was reportedly spending up to $5 million a year to support the committee -- about 4 percent of its ad budget.
BMW will sponsor the Olympic Committee and four national teams: bobsled and skeleton, speed skating, swimming and track and field. BMW also will provide the teams technical support and allow them to use some of the automaker's facilities, such as a wind tunnel in Munich.
Jack Pitney, BMW's vice president of marketing, announcd the sponsorship today with the U.S. Olympic Committee at a company-owned BMW dealership in Manhattan. He was joined by Apolo Anton Ohno, the eight-time Olympic medalist and short-track speed skating champion.
“It is a good fit -- it is all about performance and shared values,” Pitney said in an interview before the event. “When we began to look at this, we thought wow, we can plus this up in so many different ways.
“Some of their values are about being strong and athletic, which fits in with what BMW is all about. They are dedicated and inspired, which is a win for us with our innovation and our efficient-dynamics sustainability program. We are about beautiful design, and they are about the beauty of their athletes and their achievements.”
All brands in play
Pitney declined to say how much BMW is spending for the sponsorship but did not rebut the $24 million reported by The Associated Press. Pitney said it's BMW's biggest sponsorship deal since he joined the company 15 years ago.
Pitney said BMW approached the U.S. Olympic Committee about sponsorship in February because the automaker's subsidiary in the United Kingdom is a sponsor of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
The deal encompasses all BMW brands, including Mini, Rolls-Royce and BMW Motorrad motorcycles, Pitney said. BMW will provide vehicles to the 2012, 2014 and 2016 U.S. Olympic and the 2011 and 2015 U.S. Pan American and Parapan American teams.
Pitney said BMW wanted to provide technical support because of the company's knowledge not only in aerodynamics but also in aqua dynamics -- “how bodies cut through the water ” -- through its sponsorship of the BMW Oracle Racing yacht team, which won the America's Cup sailing trophy this year.
BMW will also develop programs to support Team USA and will have a presence at the Olympic teams' three training centers. As part of the deal, BMW will be able to use the centers in Colorado, California and New York for its training events -- such as dealer programs, said Pitney.
He said an important element of the sponsorship is BMW's agreement to do an annual “cause-related marketing activity” that will raise funds for Team USA. The details of what BMW will do haven't been worked out, Pitney said.
BMW will “have a presence” at major trials and competitive events of the four teams it is sponsoring, beginning with the national swimming championships scheduled for Aug. 3-7 in Irvine, Calif.
BMW's ties to the Olympics go back several decades.
“BMW has had a long- standing affiliation with sports marketing and the Olympics in particular,” said Pitney. “At the Munich Olympics in 1972, we had an electric version of a 2002 that was a pace car for the marathon.”
BMW's North American subsidiary was also the “mobility provider” for the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, he said.