Olympics Showcase Apparel Makers
Olympics Showcase Apparel Makers
Feb. 07, 1998
NAGANO, Japan (AP) _ For a short time, at least, Mizuno shared the stage with the Olympic rings at the opening ceremony.
The $160 million paid by one of Japan's largest sportswear and sporting goods manufacturers got the company some prime exposure Saturday: on the chest of International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch.
The logo on the right breast of Samaranch's blue parka was equal in size and prominence to the five-ringed Olympic emblem on the left breast.
It's all part of the ongoing apparel competition by the sportswear giants, which use the Olympics as a prime showcase.
Samaranch's display of Mizuno's logo isn't the first time he has carried a company logo during the Olympics or even at the opening ceremony. But the commercialization is supposed to be tamer this time around, the result of the fierce competition at the Barcelona and Atlanta Olympics.
The IOC was so taken aback by Atlanta that it brokered an ethics code with the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry in December, requiring that companies conduct activities in a ``dignified and coordinated manner'' with games' organizers.
By comparison, it is more modest in Nagano, partly because of the agreement, partly because of the smaller Winter Games themselves.
``This is a microcosm of Atlanta,'' said Martha Benson, Nike's director of communications for the Asia-Pacific region. ``Although we're servicing about the same number of athletes, this is so new for us we thought it would be dishonest to make a big appearance but not be able to give product to all the biathletes, curlers, figure skaters, etc.
``This is not about visibility.''
Nike has one small hospitality area for the athletes and teams it sponsors, housed in the abandoned ``Car Town'' auto dealership with smoked plate glass windows.
The only visible symbol of its presence is a 4-inch red ``swoosh,'' its familiar logo, on the door.
But Nike has other ways of getting noticed.
As the official sponsor of the International Ice Hockey Federation, Nike is providing all the game uniforms _ every one with a swoosh on the front and back _ and equipment like skates, sticks and gloves for players.
Its mark also will adorn the gear worn by American downhiller Picabo Street and other members of the U.S. ski team, along with the Canadian and American snowboarders.
If Nike claims it's just trying to get its feet wet, Mizuno is trying to get drenched.
As an official sponsor of the Nagano Olympic Organizing Committee, Mizuno is spending millions to supply the games with everything from hockey pucks to uniforms for the 35,000 volunteers and 600 staff.
Mizuno also outfits several Olympic teams with casual wear, including the host Japanese, and many other teams with competition gear, like the Dutch, German and U.S. speedskaters.
Although winter sports account for only 8 percent of its total annual sales, Mizuno feels the Olympics provide a platform to show its stylized ``M'' throughout the world.
``Mizuno is not known on the international level,'' said Jotaro Ueji, Mizuno's director-general manager of sports promotion. ``This will get the `M' out there. Everybody watches the Olympics.''
Big and small use the Olympics. Adidas is providing gear for the Germans and the Russians, while little-known Canadian company Roots is doing the same for the Canadians.
And some are more selective. Japanese manufacturer Descente, whose name comes from a French ski school, is using the games to show off and debut new products.
A presence at the Winter Games since Sapporo in 1972, Descente is using Nagano to introduce its ``Mobile Thermo'' _ a catalytically heated ski jacket that the Swiss team wore into the opening ceremony on Saturday.
But at a cost of $720, it may need a lot of promotion.
Descente also is introducing its ``dimplex'' fabric, designed to reduce air resistance for skiers and ski jumpers.
``Our primary goal is to show ourselves as an innovator,'' says Yasuki Morikawa, Descente's marketing division manager of public relations and advertising. ``The Olympics attracts all walks of life, and we have an opportunity to promote ourselves and our highly advanced technology.''