COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) – Bank of America will walk away from its sponsorship with the U.S. Olympic Committee unless the federation finds a way to provide more bang for the 12 million bucks it spends supporting American athletes.

The USOC received that message this week, putting the future of one of its most important sponsorship deals in jeopardy.

Home Depot and General Motors have already declined to renew long-term sponsorships with the USOC, and Bank of America could be next.

The bank provided between $12 million and $15 million in the four years ending in 2008, as well as the “Hometown Heroes” center for athletes and their families at the Olympics.

“After careful evaluation, our inability to generate sufficient results from Olympic programming is what led to this decision,” said Joe Goode, the bank’s senior vice president of global media relations.

Goode said negotiations with the USOC are ongoing, but renewing the deal the way it has been structured over the past 16 years is not a possibility.

The USOC’s chief marketing officer, Lisa Baird, said she wasn’t commenting on the negotiations but confirmed “we won’t renew the sponsorship as it’s currently structured.”

The USOC has 17 of 22 key sponsors renewed. But the possible loss, or reduction, of the Bank of America sponsorship is not good for a company that has acknowledged the financial times by laying off 13 percent of its staff in hopes of trimming $7.1 million from the 2009 budget.

The Bank of America news broke the same day the USOC was promoting a new program to encourage charitable giving to the U.S. Olympic team. Private donations make up around 7 to 10 percent of the USOC’s annual budget.

“Sports are not immune to the current economic situation,” Baird said. “Yet it seems the right time to be able to remind Americans to tie American teams and American athletes to the national pride we have now more than ever.”

Goode said Bank of America officials wrestled with the decision. Negotiations were thought to have been moving along nicely. In the end, the bank decided that while it liked being tied to the Olympic movement, it didn’t receive enough return on the investment.

Goode said the decision had nothing to do with an effort to trim the bank’s advertising budget in the wake of its own financial problems. Bank of America has received around $45 billion from the federal government’s TARP program.

The USOC still has ongoing negotiations with AT&T, another key sponsorship that was worth at least $15 million in the four-year period ending in 2008.

Baird is also looking for replacements in the automotive, home repair and cereal markets – maybe banking, too.

“We’re finding that people are open to us,” she said. “It takes a little bit longer in this environment and that’s directly due to the economy and people not having clear sightlines. Deals are taking longer. But we’re happy we have a premium property to be able to offer.”



On the Web: www.teamusa.org

AP-ES-06-03-09 1511EDT


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