McCormack helps athletes pick up pace

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 November, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 November, 1995, 12:00am

SPORTS marketing guru Mark McCormack believes Asian athletes can one day match their western counterparts as global superstars - providing they can break down language and travel barriers.

Speaking at the Asia Pacific Sport Conference at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, McCormack, chairman of the International Management Group (IMG) - the world's leading organisation in the field of athlete representation and sports marketing - said he was well aware Asian athletes still lagged far behind the West on the world stage.

'One of the big problems facing them today is language. They are also ill at ease travelling long distances,' said McCormack, considered one of the world's most powerful men in sport.

'I would say they should be urged to travel more globally. If, say, Japanese golfer [Jumbo] Ozaki, for example, travelled more, played more and won, more people would like to be involved with him,' he said.

McCormack knows a thing or two about sports marketing after starting his business from humble beginnings when sport was starting to become more commercialised.

He believes Olympic sports coverage will grow whereby lesser-known sports will also enjoy television rights and good coverage.

But he said: 'The lesser-known sports will have to be visually exciting. It's very hard to produce visual excitement from sports like yachting or cross country skiing, but if these lesser-known sports were exposed, it would enhance the commercial value of the sport.

McCormack, whose clients include golf superstars Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer and tennis champions Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and Monica Seles, outlined three ways to become - and stay - a champion in a sport.

'When they start out, a lot of these athletes want to be the best in the world and many champions will put in that extra hour of practice. The second ingredient is that some champions peak at the most important occasion like Wimbledon. Thirdly, champions can't become complacent. Real champions always want to be better,' he said.

McCormack said the key to successful sports marketing lies in creativity and integrity.

One example of McCormack's creativity is when he created the Sony golf rankings years ago.

This system led to players being invited to play in Major tournaments, replacing the old European Money List.

Integrity is also important in sports marketing.

'Look at Wimbledon. This tournament is very carefully dealt with. There is no logo outside Centre Court and the Rolex clock is discreet. The tournament could have made more money by playing on 'middle Sunday' but they give their staff and neighbours a day of rest. That's integrity and that's why the tournament has grown over the years,' he said.

McCormack said there is an enormous amount of pressure on top professional players and even though they might earn vast amounts of money, their earning span is short and not always spectacular.

'The average life of a top athlete is about 3.7 years. A gymnast can last three years, and in track and field it's a bit longer.' McCormack first became involved in the business when he managed golfing great Gary Player in the sixties.

McCormack knew commercial sport would some day become huge when golfing legend Jack Nicholas was asked to play a private round of golf for US$10,000.