Israel Olympic Committee markets hats, T-shirts, pins

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Some visitors to this year's Olympics might be surprised to find souvenir collectors swapping pins bearing images of Jewish ritual objects.

It's part of the Israel Olympic Committee's plan to market its own line of memorabilia. Profits will fund the Jewish state's athletes.

The mementos include pins, caps and T-shirts bearing the Israeli Olympic logo, which depicts a menorah and Torah under the Olympic rings. While such marketing is old hat to American teams, it's a whole new ball game for the Israelis.

"This is the first time [Olympic] sponsorships have been marketed in Israel," said Raymond Goldsmith, CEO of International Licensing & Marketing, which handles these affairs for the Israel Olympic Committee and its counterparts in other countries.

ILM entered into agreements with Sara Lee's Hanes division and the 1996 Olympic Games Pin Society to develop the T-shirts, pins and caps. The merchandise is sold only through North American Jewish publications to avoid direct competition with Olympic goods that are marketed exclusively by the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games and the United States Olympic Committee.

On sale since May, the Israeli merchandise is cleverly priced at $18, the amount symbolizing chai, or life, in Hebrew.

Sponsorships and merchandising are not the Israeli teams' only source of revenue. A July 27 Jerry Seinfeld performance will raise additional money. It is hoped that all fund-raising attempts combined will net some $250,000.

That goal seems attainable, Goldsmith said.

Most of Israel's Olympic budget comes from public sources. McDonald's is marketing hats bearing both the Atlanta Games and the Israel Olympic Committee emblems in all of its Israeli restaurants.

El Al will fly the Israeli delegation to the games in a plane painted the colors of the IOC emblem.

Speedo is the sponsor of sports equipment and apparel.

The Castro Model company, chosen as the official dresser of the Israeli delegation to the Olympics, designed the delegation's formal suits with the aid of fashion designers. The Brill company provided matching shoes.

Jeunesse Cosmetics will provide free beauty-care products and treatments to the female athletes. BLT Mei Eden is supplying mineral water to the athletes during training and competitions.

To order Israeli Olympic merchandise, call (800) 552-0000, ext. 20.