SBJ/20080623/Countdown to Beijing

Web-based programs thrive for partners

Mary-Clare Brennan, a 12-year veteran at the U.S. Olympic Committee, was promoted to her current position as director, sponsorship activation and fulfillment, earlier this year. In that role, she is leading a new department that will support USOC corporate partners with business research, brand analysis and strategic advice. She recently spoke with staff writer Tripp Mickle about USOC partner activation in 2008.

What trends are you seeing among USOC partners who are activating ahead of the Beijing Games?
Brennan: Definitely the use of the Web. The modeling of programs from a user-generator content standpoint is common. Bank of America’s America’s Cheer site is one of the best examples. I do think that’s a trend and a really exciting one.

Why is that occurring and what are the benefits of it?
Brennan: It’s logical. Looking at the proliferation of sites like Facebook and MySpace, sponsors are following where consumers are going and where eyeballs are going. Only the data will show if it’s effective, but from what I’ve seen, it’s been very effective so far.

How do you advise sponsors to activate during an overseas Games?
Brennan: That’s dependent on their objectives. If running a program like Bank of America does for our athletes, the Hometown Hopefuls, makes sense, then that is a great way for a domestic sponsor to leverage an offshore Games. But you’d never advise it if it doesn’t make sense because that’s a costly program.

Beyond objectives, what we always advise is that all key constituents are hit by a program, so that it’s a really multifaceted program touching your consumer base, your B-to-B targets, your vendors and your board.

You mentioned the Bank of America program. Are there others that you all hold up as noteworthy examples of what a sponsor can do during an offshore Games?
Brennan: Anheuser-Busch has done a great one (with their Club Bud) but they’ve augmented it with Games rights. If you’re talking about a domestic sponsor or supplier who may not have offshore rights, Kimberly Clark is doing a fabulous job with their “Let it Out” movie. Hilton with their Be Hospitable program is a great one.

What’s the most successful case study you can point to and hold up to sponsors?
Brennan: They’re all so different, to be honest. Some of the package programs, like Coke’s and Budweiser’s, are perennially successful. Use of the property for sales incentives is also perennially successful. (Former partner) John Hancock did one during the Lillehammer days, which makes it a little old to use as a case study now, but when you see the property used as a sales incentive it tends to be very successful.

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