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Category > History > Page Uploaded: 06/10/15

International Sport and Leisure: Horst Dassler's influential sports marketing company

Horst Dassler, marketing 'master' of Adidas in the 1970's, co-founded International Sport and Leisure in 1982. Horst Dassler was the president of Adidas from 1984-1987, and was the son of Adolf Dassler: the founder of Adidas in 1949. International Sport and Leisure was an influential sports marketing company, based in Switzerland, that had close ties with FIFA. One of Horst Dassler's closest business partners was Patrick Nally, and together, they created a blueprint for marketing global sports tournaments in the 1970's. Patrick Nally and Horst Dassler are viewed as the 'founding fathers' of modern sports marketing: where they offered international 'blue chip' companies exclusive sponsorship rights to global sports tournaments.

The founder of International Sport and Leisure, alongside the Beckenbauer, 'holding court' and spreading his influence. Horst Dassler (centre)

Patrick Nally and Horst Dassler played an essential role in João Havelange's successful bid to become the Presidency of FIFA in 1974. Patrick Nally created the West Nally Group in the mid-1970's, and using his influence with Havelange, managed to broker a sponsorship deal for the 1978 FIFA World Cup. Patrick Nally persuaded Coca-Cola to become the principle sponsor of the 1978 FIFA World Cup, and thus set in motion 'blue chip' corporate sponsorship of the FIFA World Cup.

The West Nally Group focused itself upon sponsorship of sports tournaments, whereas International Sport and Leisure sold the broadcast rights to sports tournaments. At it's height, in the 1980's and 1990's, International Sport and Leisure held a virtual monopoly on the broadcast rights for the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup. This ensured that International Sport and Leisure made billions of dollars in profit from selling these rights to countries across the globe. In 1987, Horst Dassler died suddenly at the age of 51, and did not witness the rise and fall of International Sport and Leisure.

International Sport and Leisure over-stretched their finances by purchasing the broadcast rights to the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) for $1.2 billion. International Sport and Leisure overestimated the interest in tennis, and failed to sell the broadcast rights to enough European countries. The result was that International Sport and Leisure were bankrupt in 2001 with debts of over $300 million. Just before entering bankruptcy, International Sport and Leisure sold the broadcast rights to the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cups to ISL Football AG.

In 2012, a new FIFA Ethics Committee investigated alleged illegal payments made by International Sport and Leisure to FIFA committee members to acquire the broadcast rights to FIFA events. While these allegations were related to payments made by International Sport and Leisure long after Horst Dassler's death, the close relationship Horst had with Sepp Blatter (helping him become general secretary in 1982) and the perceived silence by Adidas over FIFA corruption, has led to negative press for Adidas in 2015.