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SBD/February 17, 2014/Olympics
"Piggyback" Sponsors Around Sochi Often Attract More Attention Than Official Sponsors
Published February 17, 2014
BREW FOR THE CREW: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Sonne & Troianovski noted Starbucks "isn't an Olympic sponsor and is therefore forbidden to have an official presence" in Sochi, but NBC "has its own secret Starbucks" there. IOC TOP sponsor McDonald's is supposed to be the only branded coffee player, but NBC has "erected the Sochi Starbucks in its cordoned-off area of the Olympic media center." It serves "free java 24-hours-a-day to the roughly 2,500 people NBC says it sent here." NBC "flies in a rotating crew of some 15 baristas from Starbucks coffee shops in Russia, sets them up with accommodations in Sochi, and pays their regular wages." NBC's "special Starbucks has inadvertently created a coffee buzz." A stream of branded Starbucks cups has "seeped around the Olympic grounds in what some initially surmised was a cunning ambush marketing campaign -- a suggestion that Starbucks and NBC deny." NBC said that its Starbucks "doesn't run afoul of Olympic rules," because it is "secluded within an NBC facility and isn't open to the public." IOC Media Relations Coordinator Rachel Rominger said that the NBC Starbucks "isn't violating any rules" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/15).
GHOST TWEETERS: The AP's John Leicester reported some Olympians are "turning over their social media accounts to sponsors, agreeing to quotas of postings on Twitter and Facebook and letting other people send commercial messages in their name." The agents for U.S. figure skaters Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold said that sponsors "draft some of their tweets, plugging their brands." IMG's Yuki Saegusa, who reps Gold, said, "We get a list of tweets or social media things that need to be posted and then we approve them for her." Leicester noted although her agents "'encourage' Gold to post the pre-packaged commercial tweets to her 65,000 followers herself, sometimes others do it for her." Saegusa: "We're in a very new age now where a lot of advertising, or PR, or promotions, is social media. That's becoming a very important aspect of marketing." IMG's David Baden, who reps Wagner, said of the commercial tweets, "It's not like Ashley doesn't know about these. I mean we send her all these. She had to approve all of them, and so it's not that she does not know what is being said. She's seen it. She's part of this whole process. It's just that with her schedule, and if we can make things easier, what's the difference?" (AP, 2/16).