Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

Christine Mooney
Christine Mooney

Risks and rewards
in going for the gold


Networking – Companies that become part of the Olympic network will gain access to an exclusive club, creating networking opportunities to build future business.

Learning – Having the opportunity to work alongside of, or in concert with, successful businesses provides a chance to study what makes them successful.

Resources – Being part of the Olympic network, rubbing elbows with major corporations, can allow smaller companies access to technology and other resources usually reserved for the big boys and the opportunity to learn how to use it.


Sharing – Being part of a network means sharing your resources. You must ensure that your ideas will be protected during the sharing process.

Guilt by association – Networks are great when all participants pull their weight, but can be a disaster if someone doesn’t. Pay attention to who might be in your network – if they fail to produce it can reflect on you.

Big stage, big risks – If the games are a big success, you are on the winning team. If they go down in history as a boondoggle, you are forever associated with their failure.

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News Release

Contact: Joe King, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 893-9447

September 24, 2009

Time to team up for Olympics,
says NIU business professor

DeKalb, Ill. — As the organizers of Chicago’s 2016 Olympics bid sprint for the finish line, NIU Professor of Management Christine Mooney says that it’s time for local business to begin thinking about ways to become part of the Olympic team.

If Chicago gets the nod, the announcement will be the starting gun for a massive race to prepare, and local companies stand to be big winners if they act wisely, says Mooney, co-author of a paper studying how businesses can benefit from “mega-events.”

Those who find ways to successfully insert themselves into the network behind events such as the Olympics can continue collecting gold long after the last medal is presented. “While the run up to the games is a sprint, those who learn from the experience position themselves for success in the long run,” she says.

It’s not just Fortune 500 companies that stand to benefit, she says. Granted, much of the talk surrounding the Olympics is on a grand scale – big venues, huge infrastructure improvements, etc. – but those companies can’t do it on their own. They need lots of local expertise and manpower, which creates opportunities for smaller companies to sign on as partners. Becoming one of those partners can be quite lucrative.

“I think that is something the organizers in Chicago have not talked up enough,” Mooney says. “Becoming part of a mega-event network gives you a competitive edge against other organizations in your industry.”

Members of such networks work alongside big companies, which provides them opportunities to learn how the major players do business, develop contacts and make names for themselves.

For example, in Beijing, Mooney cites a little-known French-Chinese company by the name of ASK TongFang. That company landed a lucrative contract to print tickets for the games because they had technology that made tickets all-but- impossible to counterfeit. The company’s technology vaulted them into the spotlight. Their role also automatically put ASK TongFang in partnership with GE, which manages all issues related to security at the games. That has the potential to open many doors, says Mooney.

“It’s a great example of a small organization (ASK TongFang was only 3 years old) using the Olympics as an opportunity to burst on the scene and set themselves up for long-term benefits,” says Mooney.

There are many such opportunities on a less grand scale, Mooney points out. “There are many more mundane opportunities – say becoming a prominent caterer to games events, or part of the supply chain that supplies the food or some other vital service at the games. Successfully carrying out any of those roles can open up lots of doors for business down the road.”

The key, says Mooney, is looking beyond the finish line from the very start. “Dedicate resources to building trust so those relationships will continue after the event. Building the network is the real payoff, and you can’t assume those relationships will continue just because you worked together.”

Also, she cautions, don’t jump into the Olympic pool if it isn’t a good fit for your business. “You have to assess the costs of membership now and whether benefits outweigh the costs,” she says. “Just as an impressive Olympic performance can vault a company forward, failing can disqualify it in the future.”

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