Business

British Olympic Association predicts record 2015 profits

Bill Sweeney Image copyright Getty Images

The British Olympic Association is set to report record profits for 2015, its chief executive Bill Sweeney has told the BBC.

Its results are out later in the year.

In 2014 it made a loss of almost £700,000, but bringing in more corporate partners helped turn the figures around, Mr Sweeney said.

A previously "one-dimensional" business model is being changed to become less reliant on sponsorship and donations, he added.

Money will start coming in through other events, Mr Sweeney said.

An event involving mass participation by the public akin to the London Marathon, to coincide with the return of athletes from the Olympic Games in Rio in August, is one part of the strategy.

Talks are progressing for an American-style Olympic Trials event in the run-up to Tokyo 2020.

Olympic trials to choose which athletes get to go to the Games are normally broken down into individual events.

The idea is that these competitions will be brought together into one big tournament.

High bar

The Chairman of UK Athletics, Ed Warner, told BBC Radio 5 live that turning a profit at the BOA isn't straightforward.

"They don't own any of these athletes - they are their own mini-corporations, so to bring together the branding, many of whom might be Nike or Brookes or New Balance athletes in between times, and then stick them in Adidas gear, and get the iconography or it, and make something of it, it's not easy.

"I'd like to see them build their reserves. When the next economic downturn comes, or next hiccough in the performance of the British team, they can survive and thrive."

London Burden

Out of 206 national Olympic committees around the world, the BOA is one of only 4 that is privately funded.

The London Olympics in 2012 gave the association the opportunity of a lifetime to sell its brand, with 90% of the UK population watching the games for at least 15 minutes. But it wasn't all plain sailing.

"While hosting your own games is absolutely wonderful from the outside, the chaos and what it creates inside an organisation can be quite disruptive" Mr Sweeney said.

"[Since then] we had a massive focus on the top line revenue growth.

"We did some independent work around the brand of Team GB, and what is it we own.

"And that gave us a very clear vision of what Team GB is and more importantly what it isn't.

"We had a very good run for 18 months, we brought a lot of new partners on board.

"We don't have a marketing budget, all of our money goes into the team.

"We can't promote Team GB as a brand on TV, it would be a diversion of resources that we wouldn't want to do. So we rely on partners to do that for us."

Brand Britain

In the last 18 months, the BOA has agreed deals with German discounter Aldi to be official sponsor of Team GB, and DFS to be its official sofa provider.

Mr Sweeney says one advantage the organisation has over other sporting competitors is the unity of the squad.

"If you take a Premier League football club or Premiership rugby club, they tend to be a little bit divisive. For everybody who loves one of those teams, there's a large number for whom they aren't their favourite."

Premier League chair Richard Scudamore, before the EU referendum and the public's vote to leave, said that leaving would be "incongruous" in the context of the league's commitment to "openness".

Bill Sweeney said Brexit "is a decision to go it alone."

"I'm sure it will be perceived as a move to break away and be separate.

"[The] question becomes how we deal with that and make sure we go back and say this was done for various different reasons, but we don't see ourselves in sport as being isolationist."

But despite the prospect of another referendum on Scottish independence back on the agenda, Mr Sweeney said the BOA isn't yet considering the consequences.

"It's very hypothetical at the moment. We'll think about that when we're closer to it."

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