Review by Ed Hula, Harvard University

Chock-full of backstage Olympic lore, this is the book to read if you’d like a business angle on the decisions of the International Olympic Committee. The source is not entirely objective—author Michael Payne was the Olympics’ first marketing director and held high-level posts for twenty years—but it’s a compelling read nonetheless, spiced up with a fine selection of black and white photos.

Those who followed the Olympic Games twenty-five years ago may not have appreciated a big hurdle facing the Games' organizing body: looming bankruptcy. Any new marketing strategy would have to be smart and classy, respectful of the Olympics’ two-thousand-year tradition. Sullying the Olympic image or selling it to the highest bidder would not do.

Payne traces the rise of Olympic Games marketing as it corrected early mistakes such as an Olympics brand of cigarette. These says, the organizers follow eight guideposts, which Payne outlines: (1) leadership is multi-dimensional; (2) financial independence buys freedom of action; (3) higher values set the commercial value; (4) zero tolerance: “sorry” doesn’t work; (5) sold the torch aloft (meaning cherish the brand); (6) manage the grey areas; (7) develop fast reflexes—use crises as catalysts; (8) appeal to the highest common denominator.

All in all, it’s a unique perspective on the most famous recurring spectacle in the world.

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