The Olympic Games is the world’s leading international event led by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC, a non-profit, non-governmental organization, raises millions in sponsorship and funding. Today the Olympics is one of the most recognizable brands in the world, and has become the poster-boy for commercialized sport.
The IOC describes the Olympic Games as “one of the most effective international marketing platforms in the world, reaching billions of people in over 200 countries and territories throughout the world”. There are hundreds of corporate sponsors ranging from apparel and electronics to pharmaceuticals, fast food restaurants, and soda. The IOC’s corporate sponsorship program has been so successful in driving revenue that national programs have adopted similar techniques and strategies.
Traditionally, national programs sold exclusive programs to corporate sponsors. But today, apparel, teams, accessories, and equipment are sold separately, giving way to multiple revenue streams.
The opening ceremonies for the Olympic Games are viewed by millions around the world in just the opening minutes. Additional online exposure and television coverage will lead to billions of viewers within the first week. With this much attention, it’s no wonder that sponsors, specifically apparel sponsors, jump at the opportunity to make a splash – and that often means making outfits that attract lots of attention.
Although corporate sponsors claim that they are proud to support their nation and its amateur athletes, history has proven that with just moderate success, Olympic apparel can sell millions, thus explaining why corporate sponsors happily jump at the opportunity to repeat.
With that said, here are the top five International Olympic Outfitters in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
5 Dale of Norway – Norway
Dale of Norway is a Norwegian company. Founded in 1872, for nearly 80 years the company specialized in yarn. By the 60s, the company officially manufactured clothing, predominantly wool sweaters and outdoor jackets. The company is located near the city of Bergen, Norway. It also has a subsidiary in Shelburne, Vermont.
Since 1956, the company has been an official supplier of sweaters for the Norwegian ski team and the winter Olympics. Dale of Norway has been involved in making licensed sweaters for the Olympic ski teams of Norway. In 2002, the company created a sweater for the American and Canadian ski teams. Today, their sweaters are considered collector’s items and Dale of Norway is regarded as a high-end speciality sweater manufacturer.
4 Willy Bogner – Germany
Revenue: $270 Million
Founded in 1932, Bogner was a small production company in Munich. Over the course of the last 50 years, the Bogner brand has developed into an international label. Bogner has been outfitting the German Olympic Team for the last 17 Winter Olympics and the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Known for its “fashion forward style, ergonomic silhouettes and figure-hugging fits,” Bogner is available in over 30 countries.
The company has recently expanded in the US market. It has a flagship store in New York and over 250 resellers. Today, the fashion company is recognized as a global market leader in producing high-end, quality sportswear.
3 Bosco Di Cilegi - Russia
Revenue: $1 Billion
Bosco, a Russian premier label, is owned and operated by fashion design and retail group, Bosco Di Cilegi. The company was founded in 1991 in Moscow. As the exclusive sponsor of the Russian Olympic and Paralympic teams, BOSCO designed and produced Russia’s Olympic kits for athletes for the Sochi 2014 Olympics. By 2005, the company gained global recognition after winning the New Brand Award at the World Exhibition of Sports Manufacturers.
The company specializes in the design, technical development, production, sales and marketing of sporting apparel. The company has been Russia’s official apparel sponsor for the last six consecutive Olympic Games: Salt Lake City 2002, Athens 2004, Torino 2006, Beijing 2008, Vancouver 2010, and London 2012.
In 2012, the company opened its first U.K.–based retail outlet; it was the 65th store it had opened, and the first outside of Russia and Ukraine. The company had annual sales of $795 million in 2012, up 24% from the previous year.
Bosco sells Olympic jackets, vests, sport suits, ski suits with fur collars and snowboarding suits. According to founder Mikhail Kusnirovich, the company’s sponsorship contract with the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games was worth an estimated $100 million, an amount Bosco is expected to turn into net profits from the pre-Games sales. Kusnirovich expects to acquire additional production and distribution thanks to its participation in the Olympic festivities.
2 Ralph Lauren – USA
Revenue: $5 Billion
In 2008, Polo Ralph Lauren won the U.S. Olympic contract to outfit the U.S. Olympic Team. By 2009, Ralph Lauren agreed to continue its partnership with the U.S. Olympic team for the 2010 Winter Olympics and the 2012 Summer Olympics.
The 2012 US Olympic team uniforms for the opening ceremony of the London Olympics were designed by Ralph Lauren. The uniforms were manufactured in China, setting off a bipartisan backlash from the United States Congress protesting American manufacturing not being showcased in America's greatest athletes.
In 2012, U.S. Senators announced they have co-sponsored legislation to require the 2012 U.S. Olympic team to wear American-made uniforms. For the 2014 Olympics, the athletes sported a red white and blue hand-knit sweater. Despite the mixed reviews, the full kit has sold out on Ralph Lauren’s website at $800 apiece.
1 Hudson Bay Company – Canada
Revenue: $7 Billion
The Hudson’s Bay Company (aka HBC), is Canada’s most historic company. HBC has a rich Canadian heritage dating as far back as the fur trade. The company is recognized as a leading sponsor in Canadian sports.
HBC first supported Canada’s Olympic athletes in Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1936, Squaw Valley 1960, Innsbruck 1964, Grenoble 1968, Torino 2006, Beijing 2008, Vancouver 2010, and London 2012. After having such success in 2010, HBC made an eight-year commitment with the Canadian Olympic Team as the Official Outfitter from 2013 to 2020. The $100 million sponsorship includes all Olympic, Olympic Winter, Pan American, and Youth Olympic Games.
Since the Torino Games in 2006, HBC donated approximately $35 million to support Canadian athletes. During the Vancouver Games in 2010, HBC sold over a million red mittens in what would become the most successful Olympic apparel campaign to-date. Since 2009, HBC has had several successful spinoff apparel campaigns, thanks in large part to their red mitten success.