SBJ/March 18-24, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

Citi wrapping up USOC renewal

Citi is finalizing an agreement with the U.S. Olympic Committee to return as the official retail bank of Team USA for the 2014 Sochi and 2016 Rio Games.

The deal, which sources valued at more than $15 million over four years, ensures the USOC will retain both of the banking partners it signed prior to the London Olympics. TD Ameritrade last week announced it planned to return as the official brokerage of Team USA for the 2014 and 2016 Games.

Paralympian volleyballer Kari Miller (left), Citi exec Maria Veltre (center) and Olympic swimmer Cullen Jones at an April 2012 event
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The USOC declined to comment. In a statement, Citi said, “The sponsorship proved to be a significant asset to our brand and our business and we are considering extending it.”

Citi’s renewal was far from guaranteed. The company ousted CEO Vikram Pandit, who attended the London Games, and replaced him with Michael Corbat last October. Corbat announced plans to cut 11,000 jobs and eliminate $1.1 billion of costs annually beginning in 2014. Cost cutting usually hits marketing budgets and could have pressured the USOC deal.

Also, like TD Ameritrade, Citi signed a unique deal with both the USOC and NBC in 2011. Citi bought a package that included a Team USA sponsorship and advertising on NBC during the London Games that was valued at more than $25 million. It was the first time the USOC and NBC had sold a package like that.

Headed into the Sochi Games, the USOC and NBC have found it difficult to offer a similar sponsorship and media package. That’s because the USOC sells sponsorships that last four years and include both winter and summer Games, but companies and media buyers don’t typically buy advertising three or four years in advance.

But Citi, like TD Ameritrade, saw enough value in its USOC partnership to return exclusively as a Team USA sponsor and buy its media separately from NBC prior to the Sochi and Rio Games.

“It’s a great sign that major corporations continue buying into the power of the Olympics, and it’s also a great indication of what [USOC Chief Marketing Officer] Lisa [Baird] and the USOC have done,” said Gary Pluchino, senior vice president of IMG Olympics, who had no knowledge of the Citi deal. “Corporations have come in late before a Summer Games, ramped up quickly and seen the value in it, so they re-up quickly for the next Games.”

Sources familiar with Citi’s plans said that it will bring back the “Every Step of the Way” program it developed for the London Games. The marketing program allowed Americans to use Facebook and Twitter to direct $500,000 to nonprofit sport organizations selected by 13 athletes with Citi endorsement deals. The initiative was recognized by PR Week as the Cause-Related Campaign of the Year.

The company is expected to sign several winter Olympians to promote ahead of the Sochi Games. It also has held talks with some national governing bodies about sponsoring their teams. Corbat is on the board of trustees of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.

The Citi and TD Ameritrade deals capped off a strong start to the year for the USOC. In the last two months, the organization also has announced a renewal with Hilton HHonors and a new deal with J.M. Smucker Co. It is still working on a renewal with AT&T.

Citi works with GlideSlope, MEC and Matter on its Olympic marketing.

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