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Horst Rudolf Dassler

(1936—1987)


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Mark H. McCormack (1930—2003)

 

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(1936–87)

A German sports equipment entrepreneur who brokered influential marketing and sponsorship deals in the 1970s and 1980s that established a new basis for the financing of high-profile international sporting events such as the Olympic Games and the men's football, or what became known as the FIFA, World Cup. Dassler, son of Adi Dassler, founder of the firm Adidas (a title adopted in the late 1940s) that began making sporting footwear in the 1920s, became head of the company in 1984, though he had by then worked influentially for many years. His innovation was to develop a network of contacts among the international sporting world, and to bring together the interests of sporting administrators and potential corporate sponsors. This could include lending support to individuals in gaining powerful positions in international organizations. Denis Howell, veteran British sport politician and former football referee, chaired a committee investigating the nature of sport sponsorship, and recalled asking Dassler to ‘give me any justification as to why a football boot manufacturer should wish to decide who should become the president of FIFA and control world football’. Dassler replied simply that his computerized networks were available to all who approached him. He did not say at what price this availability could be secured.

Dassler had been groomed in the world of subterranean sport marketing, paying athletes to wear the Adidas brand at Olympic Games, and he knew who to target and how to impress. He got FIFA's new President, João Havelange, to impress Coca-Cola executives at the world headquarters in Atlanta by flying there for talks on a private plane; he provided lavish hospitality for sport administrators, including a restaurant with a variety of services in Montmartre, Paris; the Adidas complex at Landersheim, Alsace, France, trained company loyalists, including Joseph Blatter who was to become FIFA president, succeeding Havelange, in 1998; he gave individuals, such as loyalist Harry Cavan from Northern Ireland, bogus and lucrative retainers, such as ‘shoe consultant’. Dassler was the man behind the emergence of the marketing company International Sport and Leisure (ISL), which was to dominate sponsorship and marketing deals with FIFA and the IOC from 1983 until its bankruptcy in 2001. The Dassler legacy, alongside the model established by Mark McCormack for sport promotion, was hugely influential in the remaking of the finances of world sport, but also in the development of a model of sport administration and organization lacking in ethics and morals, and conducive to abuse and corruption.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.


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