Of Boston’s major employers, there may be no company more affected if the 2024 Olympics are held here than the city’s iconic razor manufacturer.
The proximity of Gillette’s World Shaving Headquarters to the planned Olympic stadium and boulevard — its complex overlooks the proposed boulevard and is a couple blocks away from the stadium — could cut both ways for the company.
Throngs of spectators would stream by the plant’s entrance every day during the Summer Games, bringing a different level of exposure for the already well-known brand. But those crowds also hold the potential to disrupt shipments and commutes for the roughly 1,300 people who work there, as the 44-acre office and manufacturing campus represents a crucial link in the Gillette supply chain.
The stakes are particularly high for Gillette because its parent company, Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co., signed a contract in 2010 to be a top sponsor of the International Olympic Committee through 2020 — a partnership that could raise Gillette’s profile if renewed by P&G and Boston lands the 2024 Summer Games.
If executives at One Gillette Park are worried or excited about the changes the Games might bring, they’re certainly not saying it publicly. Spokeswoman Kara Buckley said that Gillette is following the Olympics situation closely, but otherwise she declined to comment, because P&G’s role as an IOC sponsor prevents the company from taking a stand on any of the bid cities (likely to include Paris, Hamburg, and Rome).
“Overall, it’s going to be a net win” for Gillette and P&G, said Lisa Delpy Neirotti, a sports management professor at George Washington University.
“I’m not saying it’s going to increase their stock price too much. But the brand awareness and community relations, I think, will be a plus. . . . When they bring in guests, they can take them in easily to do tours of the complex, and there can be increased brand awareness because the plant’s next door.”
Coca-Cola Co. enjoyed a boost during the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, she noted, partly because of its Olympics sponsorship and the proximity of its headquarters to the athletes village in Atlanta.
Gillette’s high-visibility location near the proposed Olympic stadium in Boston would be particularly useful because there wouldn’t be any big brands allowed to advertise on the stadium itself.
But the IOC’s stance against venue advertising could work against the company at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Neirotti said. She expects the “Gillette” logos would be taken down or covered up if the stadium hosts Olympics events such as soccer. During the 2002 Winter Olympics, for example, the former Delta Center was temporarily renamed the Salt Lake Ice Center, even though Delta Air Lines was an Olympics sponsor. And when the Winter Games went to Vancouver in 2010, what was then known as General Motors Place briefly became Canada Hockey Place.
Olympics sponsorships aren’t cheap, and the cost may weigh on P&G’s decision to renew its contract, said Victor Matheson, a sports economist at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester.
P&G could end up paying a premium to be a sponsor in the 2024 games, Matheson said, in part because the Eastern Time Zone is a particularly lucrative place for TV rights.
“If you’re Gillette, be careful what you wish for,” Matheson said. “That exposure will be great, but you’re going to be paying for that extra exposure.”
Gillette, he said, should also be wary about potential disruptions: A number of Chinese factories, for example, were shuttered during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing to cut back on air pollution.
“You have other places that simply shut down during the Olympics,” Matheson said. “You could have some situations like that with Gillette.”
Michael Rubin, a real estate lawyer at Posternak Blankstein & Lund in Boston, expects to see productivity decline significantly across the downtown during the Games as Olympics-related crowds descend on the city’s packed streets and trains and everyday workers steer clear.
“The impact at Gillette is obviously going to be very significant, because it’s right in front of them,” Rubin said. “But I think the effect will be all around the city.”
One ancillary benefit to Gillette: The Postal Service could finally move from its Fort Point Channel home, opening up the now-closed portion of Dorchester Avenue and allowing it to be converted into the Olympic Boulevard connecting South Station with the stadium. Fred Salvucci, a former state transportation secretary, said reopening that stretch of Dorchester Avenue could give Gillette another access point to its main entrance.
Salvucci expects Boston 2024 will do what it can to accommodate Gillette’s needs. He should know: During planning for the Big Dig in the 1980s, Salvucci and his team changed the path of the northbound tunnel for Interstate 93 to help it avoid Fort Point Channel. The fear, he said, was that the initial tunnel location would require too much dirt in the channel — reducing its size and raising its temperature — affecting the water used for cooling at Gillette’s factory.
“I have to believe that the Olympics would treat Gillette as I did when we were working on the Big Dig,” Salvucci said. “We’re not going to hurt that enterprise. It’s too important.”
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