Kodak to end Olympics sponsorship

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NEW YORK -- Eastman Kodak Co. said Friday it will end its long-standing sponsorship of the Olympics after the 2008 Beijing Games, severing a marketing relationship that spans more than a century.

Kodak has been one of 12 top-tier sponsors of the event for some 20 years, running a Kodak Image Center for photojournalists to edit and transmit their pictures of competitions, a diagnostic imaging clinic to treat athletes and an accreditation facility.

In addition, Kodak's logo and advertising are closely linked with marketing efforts for the Olympics, which Chinese state media predicts will reach 4 billion television viewers in 2008, 1 billion more than the Athens Games in 2004.

A company spokesman declined to detail the costs involved with being a top-tier partner. In previous years, major sponsors were estimated to spend about $55 million as part of their association with the world's premier sporting event.

Rochester, New York-based Kodak is in the final stages of a long, expensive shift away from film toward digital products, and said it needed to reevaluate its sponsorship strategy.

"Our new business strategy requires us to reassess our marketing tactics as well, and adapt them to changing market conditions and evolving customer behavior," said Kodak Director of Brand Management Elizabeth Noonan.

The Kodak spokesman said the move was made in an effort to direct its marketing message "closer to our customers," and that it was not a financial decision.

The International Olympic Committee received about $2.5 billion for the broadcasting rights for the Turin 2006 Winter Games and the Beijing Summer Olympics.
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