SBD/Issue 94/Olympics

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  • "Colbert Nation" Donations To U.S. Speedskating Surpass $300,000

    Hedrick Calls "Colbert Nation"
    Sponsorship A Blessing
    Fans of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" have been "donating money to U.S. Speedskating since November via the 'Colbert Nation' website," and host Stephen Colbert last Tuesday "supplemented their $299,993 ... to push the total to $300,000, an amount that has piqued the interest of other cash-starved Olympic sports seeking new fundraising methods," according to Rachel Blount of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. U.S. Speedskating Exec Dir Bob Crowley: "When we started, we had no idea if we'd raise $5 or $50,000. It's been a great adventure and a lot of fun. The Colbert Nation has been our knight in shining armor." U.S. speedskater Chad Hedrick said of Colbert, "For him to jump in and become a fan, to want to support us and raise money for us, it's a blessing. It's great to get the athletes in the public eye." Meanwhile, Crowley said that Colbert's sponsorship "has attracted more potential partners," and it also has "gained attention from the governing bodies of other U.S. Olympic sports, which have to hustle for sponsor dollars even in good economic times." USOC Chief of Sport Performance Mike English: "The new funding opportunity with Stephen Colbert was an exciting breakthrough. It's revolutionary. It's a unique opportunity that caught us by surprise, but those are good surprises" (STARTRIBUNE.com, 1/27).

    INTO THE SPOTLIGHT: In Salt Lake City, Martin Renzhofer wrote while U.S. speedskater Katherine Reutter "has made a name for herself inside the sport, it was an appearance on Comedy Central's 'The Colbert Report' that has brought" her into the "spotlight." Reutter said there has been "so much positive coverage" of U.S. speedskating since "The Colbert Report" began sponsoring the team, as Colbert "has pinpointed [the team] into a specific group." Reutter: "Followers of the 'Colbert Report' actually know about speedskating. They can relate to us." U.S. speedskater Alyson Dudek: "People thought that Colbert sponsoring us would turn the sport into a joke. That has never happened" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 1/27). U.S. speedskater J.R. Celski said Colbert is "awesome." Celski: "I didn't really pay much attention to him, but my friends kind of got me into him and I was really surprised when he picked us up as a sponsor." Meanwhile, Celski noted he has an endorsement deal with Wheaties, and when asked if he would be featured on the box, Celski said, "If I do good at the Games, hopefully I'll get it" (SEATTLETIMES.com, 1/26).

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  • Olympic Marketing Notes: Verizon Defends Speedskating Ads

    Verizon Exec Says She's Unaware Of Any
    Communication From USOC Regarding Ads

    Verizon Wireless Exec Dir of Corporate Communications Brenda Raney yesterday said that she is "not aware of any communication from the USOC" regarding alleged ambush marketing efforts, and she added that she "stood by the company's commercials." In DC, Amy Shipley notes Verizon Wireless is a sponsor of U.S. Speedskating, and the company "mentions that association" in a speedskating commercial. But Verizon is not an official USOC partner, unlike its competitor AT&T, and USOC officials said that "sponsorships of national sport governing bodies ... do not extend to the Olympic Games." USOC CMO Lisa Baird: "The fundamental issue is, we want to protect our sponsors' rights, because it's only through the financial generosity of our sponsors and donors that our athletes can compete" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/28). But in Seattle, Ron Judd wrote the USOC "isn't likely to garner much sympathy in Washington state, where the USOC itself has been engaging in ambush harassment of legitimate small businesses for years." The USOC "has exclusive copyright to the commercial use of the Olympic rings, the names and dates of each Olympics, and so on," and it "attempts to enforce that copyright not only aggressively, but downright recklessly" (SEATTLETIMES.com, 1/27).

    LET'S MAKE A DEAL: In N.Y., Nathaniel Vinton cites sources as saying that U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn recently "signed a deal with Rolex," which "has previously had endorsement contracts with iconic skiers like" Austrian Hermann Maier and American Picabo Street (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/28). Meanwhile, U.S. speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno is sponsored by Alaska Airways, but when asked if he gets to fly free as an endorser, Ohno said, "If I use my miles I do." Ohno also endorses Washington Potatoes and said when he first became involved with the company, "Initially, we said, 'Okay, how can we make this work as a partnership? How can they benefit, how can I benefit?' It was actually pretty easy. They've been great to work with and to have a Washington state sponsor, I'm all for that." Ohno noted the deal includes "all the potatoes" he can eat (SEATTLETIMES.com, 1/26).

    DANCING INTO THE SPOTLIGHT: The WASHINGTON POST's Shipley wonders if Vancouver Olympics viewers in the U.S., a population "recently fixated on 'Dancing With the Stars' and other such shows," will be "captivated by the elegant" U.S. ice dancing team. U.S. figure skating coach Don Laws said dancing "has become cool" in the U.S. Laws: "If we got our good ones up on top, they'll be hot. They'll be marketable. ... I think 'Dancing With the Stars' will help our team." U.S. figure skating officials hope that ice dancing ratings "will get an additional boost from the compelling story lines surrounding those with medal hopes." The "regal and photogenic" Ben Agosto and Tanith Belbin, who won Silver Medals at the '06 Turin Games, were "surpassed at the U.S. championship" by Charlie White and Meryl Davis, an "equally handsome team" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/28).

    BRIGHT FUTURE: In N.Y., Joanne Gerstner wrote Australia snowboarder Torah Bright, with her "sunny personality, photogenic and fashion-forward appearance," could be "one of the more popular athletes" at the Vancouver Games. Bright has "no major endorsements outside of snowboarding circles," and her "major sponsor is Roxy, the apparel company." Bright's agent Circe Wallace said, "What's coming up could be the perfect storm for making Torah a star beyond snowboarding. She has the talent, the personality, and the visibility is now coming. She's poised to take off" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/25).

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