BP signed on with USOC as a way to promote green initiatives

Monday, May 3, 2010

USOC: No changes expected in BP sponsorship deal

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The leader of the U.S. Olympic Committee sees no immediate change in the federation’s multimillion-dollar sponsorship deal with BP PLC in the aftermath of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Earlier this year, BP signed on as a major USOC sponsor, saying the Olympic movement’s commitment to environmental issues gave it a perfect platform to promote its own green initiatives.

On April 20, a BP rig exploded, killing 11 workers and resulting in a spreading oil spill that the company said it will take responsibility for cleaning.

The deal puts the USOC in an awkward situation — partners with a company involved in an environmental disaster on U.S. shores — though CEO Scott Blackmun said Monday he sees no indication that the sponsorship could be in jeopardy.

“Right now, the only sense I’m getting is that the executives at BP are really very, very concerned,” Blackmun said. “Their focus is exclusively on trying to stop the leaking and mitigating any damage that’s been done.”

Blackmun last met with BP officials April 21, during the U.S. Olympic team’s traditional visit to Washington to celebrate its success at the Vancouver Olympics. That was a day after the explosion, and before the full scope of the tragedy had unfolded.

In February, the USOC announced its partnership with BP, a deal worth millions that was slated to last at least through the 2012 Olympics. Four-year deals of this sort are normally worth between $10 million and $15 million. The petroleum company emphasized that it had recently shifted its focus to environmental issues, and was excited to use the Olympic platform to promote its environmental efforts.

“We believe very strongly that we need to tap all available natural resources to provide this country a more secure, lower carbon future,” Luc Bardin, BP’s chief sales and marketing officer, said then in an interview with The Associated Press.

On Monday, Blackmun conceded the risk that goes along with doing business with big companies.

“All our sponsors are big, complex organizations,” he said. “They all have issues they need to face from time to time and this is an example of one of those issues. This could play itself out in a lot of different ways. But all indications are that their response is they’re completely committed to trying to help solve the problem.”

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