That Airbnb chose the Olympic Games for its first-ever global sponsorship deal makes sense — the event both aligns with the brand's ethos and will be a boon for its bottom line as it aims to go public in 2020.
In its first large global sponsorship deal, Airbnb announced Monday it will partner with the Olympic games for nine years, spanning five different games beginning with Tokyo 2020.
Reporting from the Financial Times put the value of the sponsorship at $500 million, which will include both a significant payment to the International Olympic Committee, as well as the costs of other services Airbnb will provide. An Airbnb representative did not respond to Skift’s request for confirmation of that figure. Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky tweeted after the initial news reports that $500 million was not accurate.
A joint statement from the committee and the company said the partnership was intended to support the sustainability initiatives of the games in part by including “accommodation provisions that will reduce costs for Olympic Games organizers and stakeholders, minimize the need for construction of new accommodation infrastructure for the Olympic Games period, and generate direct revenue for local hosts and communities.”
Airbnb expects the sponsorship to create hundreds of thousands of new Airbnb hosts over the next nine years, as well as offer visitors a more authentic way to experience the games and distribute the pressure that comes from an influx of visitors. (Though on that latter point, some cities might argue the opposite.) There will also be an athlete-led Experiences program “to provide direct earning opportunities for athletes” as well as a support program for refugee athletes.
Airbnb has previously been a domestic sponsor for prior Olympic games, but this will be its first time as a member of the elite worldwide sponsorship program. Conveniently, the location of the next summer and winter games — Tokyo, Beijing, Paris, Milan, and Los Angeles — are five of Airbnb’s largest markets.
It’s a shrewd move for the company as it approaches going public in 2020 amid some turbulent headlines and persistent issues around trust. The themes of the Olympic games — cooperation, teamwork, and de-politicized globalism — align with the ethos Airbnb tries, sometimes better than others, to project to the world. The sponsorship will put the company alongside the likes of Coca Cola, Alibaba, and Toyota, thereby helping to burnish its image as a grown-up company that’s prepared to go public.
Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia said the partnership will “ensure that the Games are the most inclusive, accessible and sustainable yet, and leave a lasting positive legacy for athletes and host communities. Airbnb’s mission is to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere, and we are proud that the Olympic spirit will be carried by our community.”
UPDATED: This story was updated to include a reference to a tweet from Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky disputing the reported $500 million number as the value of the Olympics deal.
Photo credit: Joe Gebbia, Airbnb Co-Founder gives a speech after signing a nine-year, five-Games partnership with the IOC, at Japan House, London. Matt Alexander / Airbnb