Airbnb: perfect bed partners with the IOC?

Posted on
November 20, 2019
I don’t often feel sorry for the IOC, but they might be up against it after Monday’s announcement that Airbnb has signed on as a new Worldwide Olympic Partner at the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The newly created category for the brand is (wait for it …) ‘unique accommodation products and unique experiences services’.
This new deal covers the next five Olympic cycles, starting with Tokyo 2020, and including the subsequent winter and summer games in Beijing, Paris, Milan and Los Angeles, five cities which are among Airbnb’s biggest markets for private accommodation rentals worldwide. 
Reading the positioning on the IOC’s website, this could be a sponsorship match made in heaven and with sustainability and the reduction of consumption at the very heart – something that should be applauded. But dig a little deeper and it doesn’t actually seem as dreamy as intended.
“The agreement includes accommodation provisions that will reduce costs for Olympic Games organisers and stakeholders, minimise the need for construction of new accommodation infrastructure for the Olympic Games period, and generate direct revenue for local hosts and communities,” commented IOC President Thomas Bach at the announcement. Sounds great, but for Tokyo 2020 it’s too late for any impact on athlete accommodation and Paris has already announced their plans for their sustainable athletes village for the 2024 games.
Added to this, the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo this week expressed her ‘total determination’ to rein in the website and has threatened to ban it from certain areas of central Paris blaming Airbnb for causing a shortage of long-term rental properties in the city. And the Japanese government too have put in restrictions including hosts having to register with the local government, which has seen the number of listings plummet. And as reported by Reuters this week, Airbnb’s representative in Japan has said they are already lobbying local government and seeking tie-ups asking for exemptions to the curbs during next year’s games, something they already managed with success during this year’s Rugby World Cup. Governments aren’t that keen to be jumping into bed with Airbnb (pun intended), but money talks and the company are hoping that the estimated $500m deal with the IOC will open doors in Japan, Paris and far wider afield.
So not quite the match made in (airbed) heaven.
The deal isn’t just for ‘unique accommodation products’, it also covers ‘unique experience services’. In the IOC’s eyes, this is setting up earning potential for the Olympic athletes. Bach went on to say, ‘With Airbnb’s support, we will also develop new opportunities for athletes around the world to develop their own direct revenue streams through the promotion of physical activity and the Olympic values’.
Now this is interesting. Will this deal provide athletes with a genuine and tangible new revenue stream that perhaps isn’t so available from other TOP partners like Coca-Cola and Allianz? British Olympic Gold Medallist Adam Peaty already runs his ‘Adam Peaty Swim Clinics’ across the country – will being on the platform bring him new opportunities to exploit and that he has time to fulfil whilst training, or is this something more suited to a retired athlete?
And is this ‘experiences’ opportunity just a way for the IOC to be placating athletes - already disgruntled at the restrictive Rule 40 – to show that they ARE supportive of athletes gaining financially from the Olympics? The timing is interesting particularly as British athletes are preparing legal action against the British Olympic Association over what they view as ‘the restrictive nature’ of the BOA’s revised Rule 40 guidelines.
So, perhaps a few bumps in the road (lumps in the mattress?) to be smoothed out before the true value to the athletes is seen.
We’ll be following with interest the developments and exploring how athletes can take advantage of this new partnership and how Airbnb looks to activate the relationship with the IOC going forward. Will they be perfect bed partners? It’s going to be a good one to watch.

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Posted on
November 20, 2019
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