SBJ/November 19-25, 2012/Olympics

USOC extends ad packages to nonsponsors

The U.S. Olympic Committee for the first time has begun selling annual advertising packages to sponsors and nonsponsors across its digital network of 22 websites, which includes teamusa.org and a host of national governing bodies.

The organization is offering three packages that range in price from $10,000 to $50,000 for the year and promises to deliver 800,000 to 4.2 million impressions, depending on whether an advertiser makes a tier one, tier two or tier three buy.

The sales effort is part of a major push by the USOC to catch up with other sports properties in the digital space. It follows a seven-figure investment the USOC made this year in redeveloping its website and a push to provide more editorial content and features during the London Games to increase unique visitors. The organization historically included digital advertising in its sponsorship packages. Now it is trying to monetize its site and traffic by selling digital ads to sponsors, which it began doing last April, and selling advertising outside its family of sponsors for the first time.

The USOC shared its sales plans with sponsors during a Nov. 8 partner summit in Chicago. It also plans to approach brands that don’t compete with existing sponsors and offer them a chance to buy advertising on the site, much the same way the NHL and other professional leagues do.

USOC Chief Marketing Officer Lisa Baird said the organization will sell the ads in-house and won’t hire an outside agency to assist with sales. Mary Clare-Brennan, director of business development, and Julie Morris, digital media business development, will lead the sales effort.

“We’re just at the beginning of this,” Baird said. “This [digital sales] is something the NFL started a decade ago and the NBA started 15 years ago. We’re still learning and figuring out how it will work.”

The USOC also is open to selling quarterly advertisements, sponsorships of specific editorial content, and product integration. The organization took its sponsors through its offerings and plans, including coverage plans around an editorial platform called “Road to Sochi,” during a sponsor summit in Chicago early this month.

It began selling packages for 2013 before the London Games and has quarterly sales goals it’s trying to meet.

“Selling outside the sponsor family is a change,” said Sarah Hollis, senior director of digital media and broadcast services. “You won’t see competitors to our sponsors on the website because [the sponsors] have expressed interest in advertising, but we are selling in open categories and to endemics in the [national governing bodies’] sports that are on the platform.”

The USOC worked with VML, a full-service digital agency and division of Young & Rubicam, and last March launched a new version of teamusa.org. The site features large images laid out in a collage format similar to Pinterest.

The site’s traffic soared during the London Games. Monthly unique visitors jumped 82 percent to 2.5 million. The organization’s sales deck projects it will have 4 million monthly page views and 700,000 monthly unique visitors in 2013. Its YouTube channel, which has 29,000 subscribers, is projected to get 9 million views.

The organization sold Games-time packages to existing sponsors Coca-Cola, DeVry and Procter & Gamble. Each paid to brand a section on the organization’s website.

In a sales deck, the USOC says packages for 2013 can be customized. Buyers will receive ads on the organization’s home page and on home pages of participating national governing bodies.

The USOC has spent more than six months signing agreements with NGBs to make them members of the organization’s digital network. The new agreements, which cover the 2013-16 quadrennium, will see the USOC pay each NGB $25,000 to $150,000 annually to operate and sell advertising on participating websites.

Currently, the USOC has deals with 21 NGBs, including USA Bobsled & Skeleton and USA Wrestling. Baird said the organization will close more deals before the end of the year.

“We’re still in the process with a number [of NGBs],” she said. “I’ve told them we have to be done by January.”

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