SBD/Issue 94/Olympics

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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