SBJ/June 19-25, 2017/Olympics

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  • Intel joining TOP as IOC global sponsor

    Intel is close to announcing a nine-figure global sponsorship deal with the International Olympic Committee, according to multiple sources familiar with the parties’ plans.

    The deal is the tech giant’s most ambitious step yet in its 2-year-old strategy of using sports to market the user experience it powers instead of the microprocessors it sells.


    NBA: As an official sponsor of the NBA playoffs and Finals, Intel’s three-dimensional 360-degree replay technology has been used as part of national broadcasts.
    MLB: Debuted replay technology during MLB All-Star events. This month, MLB and Intel struck a three-year deal to produce live and on-demand games in virtual reality.
    NFL: An expanded relationship includes deploying Intel freeD technology in select stadiums across the league.
    ESPN X Games: Intel Curie-powered modules were placed on snowboards and BMX bikes to track real-time athlete data that was incorporated into the live ESPN broadcasts.
    NCAA: Starting with the Sweet 16 round of the 2017 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, Intel provided VR technology to Turner and CBS broadcasts as part of a multiyear partnership.
    La Liga: Installed cameras to allow 360-degree and 3-D replays.
    Endorsements:: Intel has used Serena Williams, Tom Brady, LeBron James and Michael Phelps in television commercials touting the company’s technology.
    Other deals: Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Stars, San Francisco 49ers, Round Rock Express, Texas Stars, Levi’s Stadium, PGA Tour AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and PGA Tour Safeway Open.
    Membership in the IOC’s TOP (The Olympic Partner) program sells for roughly $200 million for a four-year cycle. It includes worldwide rights to use the Olympic rings, sponsorships of national Olympic teams, and extensive hospitality and activation assets at the Games themselves.

    Intel’s exact category definition is unclear, and one source said that question has been at the forefront of negotiations for nearly a year. Drones and virtual reality were two possible components of a deal, sources said.

    Intel is entering a crowded space for Olympic partners. The IOC already has several other technology sponsors, including Samsung (wireless communication equipment and computing equipment), Panasonic (audiovisual equipment), and Alibaba Group (cloud computing.) Also, organizers of the upcoming Olympics in South Korea and Japan have signed their own tech partners to domestic deals.

    Intel CEO Brian Krzanich has been a personal driver of this deal and has insisted that it start in 2018, a source said, seeing the Pyeongchang Games as an inflection point for technology and sports in light of emerging 5G mobile technology. Korean telecom sponsor KT has said it will offer Olympic visitors a 5G experience in 2018.

    However, time is short for Intel if it hopes to activate at the Games in February. Major sponsors have booked hotels and are in the detailed planning stages for hospitality/activation programs that often involve hundreds of people and staff. Intel is already seeking agencies to help it build a plan around Pyeongchang 2018 and the Tokyo 2020 Games, sources said.

    Intel will host a media conference in New York on Wednesday. It did not disclose the topic in an invitation to media, but included the Olympic rings in its note. Intel did not respond to questions by press time and the IOC declined comment.

    For the IOC, Intel is the second new global sponsor added in just six months, following the blockbuster deal with Alibaba announced in January. It is the fourth addition in an entirely new category at the global level since 2014, adding new financial stability in an era of rapid change for the Olympic movement.

    The deal is also a boon to the U.S. Olympic Committee, which gets 20 percent of IOC deals.

    The IOC’s sponsorship portfolio is evolving as its commercial division seeks sponsors that are willing to support the IOC’s major strategic initiatives as well as market their wares. That mission has become an especially high priority in light of the belief that the IOC damaged its brand by ceding so much operational control to local organizers in Rio and Sochi.

    In 2015, Intel began to see sports as the key to a new marketing strategy designed to re-establish its brand as a tech leader. At the time, consumer research indicated Intel had become an afterthought because so few people knew precisely what its products did inside sophisticated devices marketed by other companies.

    One of its earliest attempts to fix the problem was a 2016 deal with ESPN’s X Games. At the winter X Games, Intel installed its Curie modules on competitors’ snowboards, which then broadcast real-time time data on the athletes’ motion, acceleration and location on the ESPN broadcast.

    Since then, its deals have included the PGA Tour, MLB and NBA All-Star Games, and the Super Bowl, and have expanded to show off its virtual reality and 360-degree replay technology.

    After Intel won the Sports Business Award for Best in Sports Technology last month, Intel Sports Group general manager James Carwana said: “Sports is the canary in the coal mine. It’s the leading edge. What we’re trying to create here is the next way to capture reality.” He later added: “You start with sports and the future grows broad.”

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  • First Look podcast: Intel set to join IOC’s TOP sponsorship program

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  • Toyota expands its USSA deal

    Toyota is expanding its relationship with the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association, replacing Audi as the official auto and mobility partner of the national ski team.

    In December, the automaker acquired title sponsorship rights to the U.S. Grand Prix, an Olympics qualifying tour for freeskiing and snowboarding, and became the official partner of those teams. But Audi had rights to the ski team until the end of the 2016-17 season.

    Financial terms of adding the ski team were not disclosed. The extension means that Toyota will have a presence at the U.S. Alpine Championships and domestic World Cup events across all sports overseen by the governing body. Toyota also will put its logo on the uniforms of the alpine, freestyle and cross country teams.

    “Adding the U.S. Ski team to the mix for this season, especially heading into the Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, is very exciting,” said Ed Laukes, Toyota’s group vice president of marketing.

    Toyota is in the first year of an eight-year, $835 million global sponsorship of the Olympics. Audi remains a partner of the International Ski Federation.

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  • USSA seeks unity in rebranding

    The U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association is rebranding to unify the diverse array of sports it oversees and present a single identity to sponsors, fans and donors.

    The organization will now identify itself as simply U.S. Ski & Snowboard, and has introduced a single enterprise logo and three nearly identical team marks for skiing, snowboarding and freestyle skiing. The new logo emphasizes mountains and the American flag colors, two factors all the sports have in common. Previously, the organization has used four logos that have almost nothing in common stylistically.

    The new brand reflects more than two years of work, which began in 2015 when CEO Tiger Shaw and Chairman Dexter Paine began soliciting help. One of Shaw’s first calls was to Jeanne Jackson, senior strategic adviser at Nike and a USSA board member.

    “I think there were quite a few of us who were struggling with the way the ski team and the snowboarding team presented themselves to the world from a brand perspective,” Jackson said. “I think there were many of us who thought it could be stronger, and that we were fragmenting the organization, not just fragmenting in terms of how we thought about it, but how we went to market.”

    Within winter sports, USSA is a giant. The various disciplines it oversees generated half of all medals awarded at the 2014 Sochi Games, and along with U.S. Figure Skating, it draws the majority of NGB-level corporate backing in the winter cycle. But officials feared they were punching below their weight commercially by presenting the alpine, snowboard, freestyle skiing and nordic teams as distinct entities. “Because of our fractured branding previously, it made it less valuable,” Shaw said.

    Most of the body’s key backers acquire rights to all the teams, but some apparel and endemic providers specialize.

    The brand consolidation treads on historically sensitive political grounds. Bad feelings linger from the bureaucratic disputes relating to snowboarding’s original inclusion in the Olympics in 1998, and the cultures of snowboarding, freestyle skiing and the more classic disciplines sometimes clash.

    Shaw said feedback found sport partisans were OK with a more unified identity, as long as it was crafted from scratch with equal input.

    “The concept was fine with them, they just didn’t want to be grouped with something that was aged, or traditional or narrow to one sport,” Shaw said.

    Along with Jackson, USSA had advice from U.S. Olympic Committee CMO Lisa Baird, who has led the USOC’s push toward a single “Team USA” brand across all its events and properties.

    “If you can really bring your core purpose down to a few marks, to me it’s a better way to do branding,” Baird said. “Consistency is the mechanism that allows you to cut through and develop meaning and purpose over time.”

    Several creative agencies assisted: Harrigan Design Group in Boston, i.d.e.a. of San Diego, Monigle of Denver, West of San Francisco, and the marketing/creative departments of Putnam Investments, a USSA sponsor.

    The rebranding is launching just ahead of the USSA partner summit set for Wednesday through Friday.

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