Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Downtown firm has designs on Olympics


David Woodward and designer Samantha Lipman review a page design for an Olympic bid book at the downtown Toledo company. Mr. Woodward and his firm have a contract to promote the Russian city of Sochi as host for the 2014 Winter Olympics. The local company is among a select few around the world that specialize in Olympic bids.


The better David Woodward does his job, the greater the chance that there will be palm trees next decade at the Winter Olympics.

No, Mr. Woodward is not in the business of promoting global warming.

Rather, he is the owner, president, and creative director of North, a small design and branding firm in downtown Toledo that has a contract to help market the Russian city of Sochi in its bid to host the 2014 winter games.

Located at the southwestern tip of Russia between the Black Sea and the snow-capped Caucasus Mountains, Sochi is a subtropical resort town that is said to attract 4 million tourists a year through its summer beach weather and nearby opportunities for winter mountain skiing.

Sochi is the fourth Olympic bid city for which Mr. Woodward, 35, a South Toledo native and 1989 graduate of Bowsher High School, has done design work.

Those jobs have involved working with advertising consultants in each country to develop the visual design elements of a city's Olympic appeal: creating brochures, newsletters, presentations, and designing Web sites and apparel, such as hats and T-shirts.

Mr. Woodward designed Sochi's Olympic bid logo, as well as the layout of the three-volume, 500-page bid book that is intended to convince members of the International Olympic Committee that Sochi would be ideal for hosting the 2014 Winter Games.

"Anywhere there is any sort of look or feel element - that's our area," he said.

Mr. Woodward previously worked on Olympic bids for Moscow for the 2012 summer games, Stockholm for the 2004 winter games, and on the bid by Klagenfurt, Austria, for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games.

Moscow was one of four cities, including New York City, that finished behind London in voting while bidding for the 2012 summer games.

"If they were judging it just on design, we would have been number one," Mr. Woodward said with a smile.

Olympic committee members vote among a list of candidate cities to determine which will host the games.

They consider such factors as public support, financial wherewithal, security, and whether a city has the infrastructure to put on the games and house visitors.

While none of the cities that Mr. Woodward has worked for so far has been chosen as a host site, this void has apparently not affected his ability to attract new client cities.

There is a very small circle of consulting firms in the United States, Europe, and Asia that specialize in helping cities bid for the Olympics, said George Hirthler, an Olympic bid strategist with Hirthler & Partners of Atlanta.

These firms typically acquire work when new bidding cities ask previous bidders where they found their design and consulting talent, he said. The pay varies widely, depending on the job.

Last June, Mr. Woodward opened North at 409 Adams St. in downtown Toledo after having worked as a freelance graphic design and creative director here since relocating from Atlanta in 2002.

Mr. Woodward cites the Olympics business as the primary reason he opened North, which employs a staff of five and also holds accounts with local, national, and international businesses that are unrelated to the Olympics.

"I've spent a week of every month in Moscow since 2003," he said. "I just couldn't do it on my own anymore."

Mr. Woodward's design work is part of a broad public relations campaign to gain support for Sochi's Olympic bid in Russia and throughout the world. Sochi is competing against PyeongChang, South Korea, and Salzburg, Austria.

The committee is scheduled to vote in July.

"Any Olympic bid is a large marketing campaign," Mr. Woodward said. "We're trying to influence that voting body, as well as the people who influence them."

Robert Livingstone, who runs, a Web site about the Olympic bid process, said marketing campaigns are crucial to any city's Olympic aspirations - especially for smaller cities such as Sochi that often bid for winter games.

"You have cities and towns that aren't well-known, so obviously, marketing is of huge importance," he said.

The total costs of hosting an Olympic games can surpass $10 billion with construction costs for new event facilities.

Just putting forth a serious bid effort can mean spending more than $50 million, analysts say.

Yet cities still aspire to become hosts because of the influx of money the games can bring, and the chance to establish themselves as an international tourist destination.

"It literally means billions of dollars for the economy if they win," Mr. Woodward said. "Even if they don't win, lots of people will still know the city - so it's a good gamble."

Mr. Woodward attended Miami University of Ohio and received a bachelor's degree in fine arts with a concentration in graphic design.

He moved to Atlanta after graduation, and in the mid-1990s began working for Mr. Hirthler's former design and communications firm, Copeland Hirthler, which helped Atlanta in its bid for the 1996 summer Olympics.

Mr. Woodward worked on both the Klagenfurt and Stockholm Olympic projects while at the company. He said he eventually left Atlanta for Toledo to be closer to relatives and raise his own family.

While working on Moscow's 2012 Olympic bid, Mr. Woodward found himself in the awkward situation of being pitted against his own country and former colleagues, who were trying to land the games in New York City.

"That's sort of when your role as a business person takes over," he explained. "There are so few cities that bid, so it's quite an honor to be working for any city - even if it's not a U.S. city."

So, who was he rooting for?

"When I was working for the Russians, I wanted to beat New York," Mr. Woodward said. "I think Moscow had a whole lot to gain, more than New York, by the games."

Yet one of Mr. Woodward's own Olympic dreams involves working to bring the games to an American city. Chicago is presently competing against Los Angeles to become the nation's candidate for the 2016 summer games.

"I'm secretly hoping for a Chicago Olympics," Mr. Woodward said. "A Midwestern Olympics would be killer. ... I'm calling it the beer and brauts games."

Contact JC Reindl at: or


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