SBD/January 7, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

Vonn's Withdrawal From Olympics Leaves Sponsors, Team USA Without Top Star

Vonn was expected to be a focal point of NBC's coverage of the Sochi Games
U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn announced this morning that she will not compete at the Sochi Games, meaning the event “will be without arguably its biggest star,” according to Kelly Whiteside of USA TODAY. Given her “star power," Vonn had been "cast as the American face of these Games.” When NBC “rolled out its huge Olympic blitz, the first promotional spots featured Vonn.” She also is “prominent in Procter & Gamble's ‘Thank You, Mom’ campaign and sponsored by Under Armour, Head, Red Bull, Oakley and Rolex among others.” Vonn’s return to competition was “expected to be one of the major stories of these Games” (USATODAY.com, 1/7). SI.com’s Tim Layden writes Vonn's absence “deprives the Games of one of its most significant U.S. stars.” Only U.S. snowboarder Shaun White "can come close to matching Vonn's celebrity wattage” (SI.com, 1/7). The AP’s Fendrich & Graham write Vonn’s departure leaves the Games “without out one of its biggest stars.” Vonn is a “four-time overall World Cup champion, the most recognized name in Alpine skiing -- and, as it happens, the girlfriend of Tiger Woods.” Fendrich & Graham: “Add it all up, and she would have been the focus of plenty of media coverage in Sochi” (AP, 1/7). Meanwhile, in Baltimore, Sarah Meehan writes Vonn's move is a "blow" to Under Armour, as the company has "backed Vonn for years and currently features her in new advertisements highlighting the company’s ColdGear." While Vonn is not UA's only Olympian, she was the "best known competitor sponsored by the company" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 1/7).

WHO FILLS VONN'S VOID?
ESPN Radio's Mike Greenberg said Vonn is "arguably the most identifiable American athlete in the Winter Games" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 1/7). Grantland's Katie Baker wrote on her Twitter account with Vonn not competing in Sochi, "we're gonna be hearing a lotttt more about teenage sensation Mikaela Shiffrin." SportsBusiness Journal's Tripp Mickle wrote, "NBC Sports will be looking for a new darling. Shiffrin? Mancuso? K Clark? Wagner?" The AP's Steve Wilson: "Biggest name now that Lindsey Vonn is out of @Sochi2014 #Olympics: Shaun White? Alex Ovechkin? Kim Yu-na?" The Minneapolis Star Tribune's Patrick Reusse: "My low level of interest in Sochi Games is now much lower." Toronto-based CJCL-AM's Greg Brady wrote Vonn's absence is a "big blow to NBC & CBC because of all the other skiiers I can't possibly name & won't care about learning."

LATE ADDITION TO NBC'S ROSTER? NBC's Dan Patrick said he did not know if Vonn will "work for NBC during the Olympics," but he added, "I would imagine they would try to hire her." Patrick: "It would be a smart move" ("The Dan Patrick Show," 1/7). The N.Y. Times' Christopher Clarey wrote on Twitter it is "hard to imagine Lindsey Vonn won't be in #Sochi even if not competing." Clarey: "She's practically an NBC staffer already. On-air is a no-brainer." "The Dan Patrick Show" Exec Producer Paul Pabst wrote, "Lindsey Vonn will likely be hired as an NBC/Sochi skiing analyst before the day is out...I have no sources on this. Just logic." Baker Street Advertising Senior VP & Exec Creative Dir Bob Dorfman: "With Lindsey Vonn sadly out of the Sochi games, the USA loses a star skier, but NBC gains a winning on-camera personality.
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