• USOC performs a flip on Samsung's Genome Project

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    Athletes are now being asked to opt in to Samsung's Olympic activation.
    The U.S. Olympic Committee recently sent athletes a new form asking them to opt in to Samsung’s Genome Project, a marketing initiative that’s the subject of a lawsuit from 18 Olympians who allege the company used their images without permission.

    The opt-in form represents a reversal of sorts by the USOC and its sponsor Samsung. The organization and company initially allowed athletes only to opt out of the marketing initiative, which is a Facebook application that allows users to see how they are connected to past and present Olympians and Olympic hopefuls.

    Samsung, whose Genome Project is its lone U.S. Olympic activation for the London Games, declined to comment on the opt-in form because of ongoing litigation.

    When the program was launched, Samsung Electronics America chief marketer Ralph Santana said, “This is all grounded in the insight that people want to know how they’re connected to Olympians. This is a unique manifestation of what people are looking for.”

    The marketing program has raised questions in Olympic circles since last fall when it was first revealed to athlete representatives. The agents questioned how the program would use personal information about athletes and whether Samsung would pay athletes for the use of their names and likenesses on the website.

    The company sent an opt-out form to athletes before launching the Facebook app April 9. Those who didn’t opt out were included in the app, including stars such as Michael Phelps, Dara Torres and Mark Spitz.

    A group of 18 Olympians sued Samsung on April 25, alleging the company did not have permission to incorporate the athletes’ names and photos into the Genome Project. Among the list of athletes suing are Torres, Spitz, Greg Louganis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Aaron Peirsol and Cullen Jones.

    Some athletes have endorsements with Samsung competitors. Torres, for example, has a deal with Hewlett-Packard.

    Samsung has pulled the names of the athletes who filed suit from the Genome Project. As of press time, Samsung had not posted to the site since April 25, the day the lawsuit was filed.

    The company declined to say how many athletes are featured on the app and how that total compares to the number of athletes featured before the lawsuit.

  • On-site hospitality an Olympic first

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    Just 75 yards from London’s Olympic Stadium, a three-story, $12 million temporary structure has been erected to provide the first on-site, corporate hospitality experience at an Olympic Games.

    The building is the centerpiece of the London Olympic Organizing Committee’s (LOCOG) hospitality vision for the Games, and the success or failure this summer of the company that built it, Prestige Ticketing, will go a long way to determining if on-site hospitality becomes a new revenue stream for future organizing committees.

    “It’s a product that’s been a tougher sell because of the pricing and the economy, but I hope it succeeds because it’s a good and different model,” said Keith Bruce, president of SportsMark, the exclusive hospitality sales agency in the United States for the 2014 World Cup. “It’s one FIFA’s deployed for a long time, and the Olympics have evolved to a point where having a corporate hospitality offering makes sense to explore. It’s not an automatic. The proof will be in the performance.”

    Prestige Ticketing is a joint venture that was created after LOCOG decided to develop a package of on-site hospitality rights for the 2012 Olympics. LOCOG put those rights up for tender in 2009, and Sodexo, a service and management company headquartered in France, and the Mike Burton Group, a sports and corporate hospitality company based in the U.K., won the hospitality rights with a joint bid that sources valued at more than $30 million.

    In addition to that hospitality package, LOCOG sold two separate hospitality packages to Thomas Cook, a British travel agency, and Jet Set Sports, the U.S.-based sports hospitality agency. The groups are packaging tickets with hotel rooms to create customized hospitality experiences. Each national Olympic committee is allocated tickets, as well, and U.S. Olympic Committee sponsors and national governing bodies can secure tickets for hospitality experiences from the USOC’s official hospitality partner, Jet Set.

    Prestige's on-site, corporate hospitality (far right) is steps from London's Olympic stadium.
    But Prestige is the only group that can offer an on-site hospitality experience during the Games. The company received 80,000 tickets, roughly 1 percent of the total for the Olympics, and rights to set up on-site hospitality structures at several venues: the Olympic Park for athletics, aquatics and other events; Eton Dorney for rowing; Greenwich Park for equestrian; Horse Guards Parade for beach volleyball; North Greenwich Arena (the O2) for basketball; Wimbledon for tennis; and several soccer stadiums.

    Prestige hospitality packages range in price from $12,000 per ticket for the opening ceremony, one of the most prestigious events, to $795 for rowing qualification events. The majority of tickets are priced at less than $1,500, and most include breakfast, a four-course lunch and a champagne reception.

    To date, Prestige has sold 80 percent of its inventory. It has sold out of tickets for beach volleyball, tennis, diving and field hockey medal events. It has held back some tickets for high-demand events such as the opening and closing ceremonies, and some track and field events, and has begun to sell individual tickets to events like the preliminary rounds of basketball, handball, rowing, track cycling, artistic gymnastics and early tennis matches.

    Some 80 percent of hospitality package buyers to date are corporate customers. The other 20 percent are individuals.

    Nearly 75 percent of buyers are based in the United Kingdom, but Prestige has had strong demand from select international markets such as India, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Middle East.

    “What we’ve seen in the last four or five months is strong consumer demand,” said Alan Gilpin, Prestige Ticketing’s chief operating officer. “We’ve tried to look at what we have left and create some packages that appeal to that market.”

    Gilpin said that developing a price structure and sales strategy for Prestige hospitality packages was difficult because what the company was offering had never been sold before. His staff of 45 people spent time reviewing hospitality prices for the FIFA World Cup, Rugby World Cup, UEFA Champions League final and Formula One to develop prices and a strategy for selling inventory for the London Games. They ultimately decided that if people were willing to pay $7,500 for hospitality at last year’s Champions League final in Wembley Stadium, then they would pay at least that or more for marquee Olympic events.

    Prestige had to get LOCOG’s approval for its pricing plan.

    Initially the company leveraged its position to require major up-front commitments from customers. For example, it required businesses wanting to entertain clients at marquee events like track’s 100-meter final to buy 10 tickets for that event plus tickets to other events, reportedly bringing the minimum purchase price to $425,000.

    But it’s changed and adjusted prices over time in an effort to find buyers for remaining inventory at events ranging from field hockey to handball. It recently partnered with Ticketmaster to sell some of that remaining inventory online.

    “It’s a complex program to put together because it hasn’t been done before,” Gilpin said. “We’ve adjusted a few prices over time. Some have gone up, and a few have gone down.”

    The centerpiece of Prestige’s hospitality offering is the three-story structure it built adjacent to the Olympic Stadium inside London’s Olympic Park. The facility has a glass atrium and can accommodate 3,000 guests. It will offer a four-course lunch with locally sourced items like smoked salmon and a post-event reception with desserts and gourmet cheeses.

    “It’s a bit of an oasis of calm in what will be the madness of the Olympic Park,” Gilpin said.

    With two months remaining until the opening ceremony, Gilpin believes that Prestige will sell out of its hospitality inventory and provide a great experience to its guests. He said they have had some discussions with the International Olympic Committee about the program and that it plans to review the program and relay lessons from LOCOG’s experience with on-site hospitality to future Olympic organizers.

    It’s too late to add on-site hospitality for Sochi 2014, but the IOC has said it plans to meet and discuss the viability of a similar program with the organizers of the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro and 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

    Gilpin said the program definitely makes sense in the U.K., where corporate demand is strong, but he’s not positive it will work in other markets. As Rio 2016 weighs that option, Sodexo and the Mike Burton Group plan to work together on other events. The two companies are using their work on Prestige Ticketing as a jumping off point for other business. They partnered to work on corporate hospitality for the next two Rugby World Cups in England in 2015 and Japan in 2019.

    “Life doesn’t begin and end for us with London 2012,” Gilpin said. “It’s a great project, but it’s a great part of a developing business.”

  • Roundtable: 75 days out, Olympic executives talk London plans

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    Long before the Olympic flame was extinguished in Beijing, marketing executives began setting their sights on the 2012 London Games. London offers an opportunity like few Games before it. As one of the world’s most diverse and international cities, it promises to capture the attention of consumers, key customers and business partners in ways few Olympic cities can.

    As a result, corporate hospitality demands are at record levels, and there is intense pressure to develop marketing plans that resonate with consumers across outlets ranging from retail to Facebook to NBC.

    SportsBusiness Journal last month convened the top marketing executives from five Olympic sponsors, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee to see how they’re managing that pressure. We talked about everything from social media’s effect on the marketing mix to measurement plans and ambush marketing to athlete endorsements.

    With less than 75 days remaining before London’s opening ceremony, we wanted to share excerpts from that conversation, with answers edited for clarity and brevity.

    Social media looms large in plans

    What does your company’s marketing mix look like this time around?

    Here are the seven individuals who met with SportsBusiness Journal’s editorial team in New York City and a snapshot of the work their brand or property has launched ahead of the London Games.

    Lisa Baird
    Title: Chief Marketing Officer, U.S. Olympic Committee
    Program: The USOC launched a fundraising campaign called “Raise Our Flag” in which it is asking donors to buy stitches, at $12 apiece, in the American flag that Team USA will carry in the opening ceremony on July 27. The flag is scheduled for completion in mid-July.

    Dermot Boden
    Title: Chief Brand Officer, Citi
    Program: Citi created a marketing program that allows Americans to use Facebook and Twitter to direct $500,000 to nonprofit sports organizations selected by the bank’s 13 endorsed Olympic athletes. The program, called “Every Step of the Way,” is designed to allow Olympic athletes to thank the organizations that inspire them.

    Scott Brennan
    Title: Vice President, Global Strategic Partnerships, Hilton Worldwide
    Program: Hilton launched a “Come Dream With Us” sweepstakes that will award one Hilton HHonors applicant a five-day trip for four to the London Games. The company also signed on as the presenting sponsor of the USOC’s “Road to London,” a series of digital news segments on athlete performances ahead of the Olympics.

    Evan Hunt
    Title: Head of Marketing Development, International Olympic Committee
    Program: The IOC worked with WPP to develop the “Show Your Best” campaign. The effort includes a broadcast spot that features memorable Olympic moments and a website where visitors are urged to upload a video of their own athletic feats. It is giving away prizes for videos that align with Olympic ideals of excellence, friendship and respect.

    Scott McCune
    Title: Vice President, Worldwide Media, Sports and Entertainment Marketing, Coca-Cola
    Program: Coca-Cola developed a global campaign called “Move to the Beat” that ties together music and sport. The company hired British music producer Mark Ronson, who has worked with Adele and the late Amy Winehouse, to develop a song based on sounds recorded at five athletes’ training sessions. It also developed an app so that consumers can make their own beats.

    Amy Millslagle
    Title: Marketing Vice President, Dow Olympic Operations
    Program: Dow, which is focused on business-to-business opportunities, signed on to fund and help develop the fabric wrap for the 2012 Olympic Stadium. It also committed to support Sochi 2014 in the organizing committee’s efforts to build an ice rink in London during the Games.

    Ralph Santana
    Title: Chief Marketing Officer, Samsung Electronics America
    Program: Samsung’s promotions in the U.S. are focused on its Genome Project, a Facebook application that shows users how they are connected to Olympic athletes. The app evaluates elements like where people are from or went to school and uses that information to compute the connections with athletes who train in the area or attended the same school.

    — Tripp Mickle
    SANTANA (SAMSUNG): Like everybody, when you look at your total marketing mix, there seems to be a heavier emphasis on digital. It will be a blended mix, but it will be a little bit heavier on digital. In Beijing, we had a heavy digital program where the focus was on YouTube. In this case, the focus is on Facebook.

    BRENNAN (HILTON): We’ll be doing a lot of traditional print purchases with athlete images and sweepstakes promotions. We’ll rely heavily on a new sponsorship website we launched, which lets us funnel messages to our Hilton HHonors members and guests about the Olympics and the athletes Hilton has selected. Then there’s Twitter and Facebook promotions. For us, that is a change because in Beijing we were very TV heavy.

    MILLSLAGLE (DOW): We’re doing a balance of traditional and untraditional. For traditional in the U.S., we’re doing TV advertising and out-of-home executions — taxicabs, billboards, etc. From a nontraditional standpoint, we’re helping build the ice rink in Sochi Park [the Russian organizing committee’s London promotion of the 2014 Winter Games] and helping to provide the stadium wrap for the Olympic Stadium [in London]. We’ll be bringing customers to feel and see those Dow solutions at play.

    BODEN (CITI): It’s our first year involved in the Olympics. We’re learning how to engage. It’s going to be a lot of social media. The program we launched last week called “Every Step of the Way” is a way to engage with the athletes and with the programs that have inspired those athletes. But we will be doing classic, above-the-line media in the partnership we have with NBC. It’s a mix and I’d classify social as the star.

    MCCUNE (COCA-COLA): For Coca-Cola, it varies by country. We had three ambitions for London. The first ambition was to recruit teenagers, and that is a challenge because right now teens aren’t very interested in the Olympic Games. But to drive our business in a global nature we had to find a way to become relevant to teens.

    The second ambition was to make this a global platform. In Beijing, we had a China platform and 60 markets outside of China.

    The third ambition was around how we think about marketing in ways that are liquid and linked, so how do we think about content and conversations in a way that’s liquid. Social is a part of that.

    That’s what drove our approach to brand Coca-Cola, and it manifests itself in a marketing mix in different ways. In Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, it’s heavily terrestrial television. In more developed markets like Japan and Korea and the U.S., there’s more mobile and social.

    BAIRD (USOC): The amount of activation in the U.S. is at a new high. The number of materials being approved is double Beijing. Whether it’s social, TV, print, we’re seeing far more integrated campaigning and execution than we’ve ever seen before. The vibe for London is so positive. It’s almost like everybody’s home games.

    Many of you mentioned social as being important. How significant was social in the planning process for you?

    BRENNAN: Social lets it be a two-way conversation. It lets people who care about the Olympics tell us what they’re feeling and how our involvement in the Games is impacting them. Without the social component, it was much more of us telling them, “Here’s what we’re doing. Hope everybody likes it.” With social they can immediately tell you, “This is great. This isn’t so great.”

    MCCUNE: All you have to do is look at a social graph. It’s enormous if you just use Facebook as your barometer from four years ago to today. Four years ago, Coca-Cola probably had 8 million Facebook fans. Today, Coca-Cola has 40 million. It’s fair to say it’s grown in that magnitude for all of our brands.

    Is there a calculated risk in going social heavy in the sense that teens aren’t as heavily interested in the Olympics?

    BODEN: The reverse is probably true. The risk is if we don’t start engaging. Our target isn’t teens at Citi. It’s an older audience. It’s 25-plus, probably in a certain socio-demographic target. But the reality is today that everyone is engaging through this, and if you’re not engaging in that way, then you’re not offering a full experience. That’s one argument for it.

    The second argument is if today’s teenagers are not engaged with the Olympics, if we don’t try social media, we’ll never engage them in the Olympics. We have no choice.

    SANTANA: I would add that when you really think about social in this particular round of the Olympics, the biggest risk is that companies or brands will chase it as a tactic and do social for the sake of social. If you don’t start with a clear idea of what your brand identity is or what you’re trying to accomplish and you don’t think about social as the tactic, the means to how, then you’re at risk. Then you’re just doing social for the sake of social.

    I’m familiar with what all the brands are doing here and there are some really compelling things going on. What differentiates one idea from another is which ones provide utility. That’s important because there’s going to be more social information than ever. You’ll have athletes in the mix. Media in the mix. Brands in the mix. The only way to cut through all that clutter is to have a great idea.

    In TV campaigns, companies are developing one international message

    With creative is it one message for all countries? Many messages for each country? What is the approach?

    Coca-Cola's Scott McCune
    The ambition [at Coca-Cola] was one idea, one message. The way we tried to recruit teenagers was knowing, “Yes, they like the athletes.” But we looked at what they are most passionate about: music.

    What we did was take the combination of music, London, the social side of the Games and created a story around it. We got the producer Mark Ronson, who has worked with Adele and the late Amy Winehouse, and we signed up five athletes from around the world — the U.K., the U.S., Singapore, Russia and Mexico. And then Mark Ronson brought in a young talent named Katy B and put together a song around the sound of sport. The story about Mark Ronson’s journey called “Move to the Beat” is the common [creative] idea across all countries for Coca-Cola.

    BRENNAN: We are a USOC sponsor and a China Olympic Committee sponsor. We built all of our campaigns around the concept of “Come Dream With Us.” It’s the promotion we’re running in the U.S. Some of the messaging remains the same, the imagery and what it evokes remains the same, but the actual wording of it had to be changed to meet local needs in China.

    MILLSLAGLE: You typically haven’t seen Dow out in the forefront in a huge advertising way. One of the reasons we signed up to be an Olympic sponsor is to help grow our brand globally. It’s very important we showcase to the world who we are and what we stand for. You will see our “Solutionism” campaign launched this summer at the Olympics and it will have the same messaging throughout the world. Images may change to fit but it will be the same message, look, tone and feel.

    How many of you are advertising on NBC? Why and why not?

    Dow's Amy Millslagle
    MILLSLAGLE: One of Dow’s key targets overall is what we call key influencers, so thought leaders in the space of science, technology and folks on Wall Street. Advertising in the U.S. is a great way to reach these individuals and help them understand what we’re about. We’re trying to show folks we’re not the commodity chemical company we used to be. We’re a solutions provider.

    BRENNAN: We found many elements of the NBC advertising proposal enticing, but honestly this Games period does not line up well with the booking window. If we can’t drive people to make a reservation with us as they’re sitting there watching the Olympics on TV, then it doesn’t make sense for us to invest in that advertising channel. We did choose to divert to digital and print.

    MCCUNE: We look at NBC and they do an incredible job of telling the Olympic and athlete stories. You look at the cumulative audience and it’s 17 Super Bowls, back-to-back-to-back-to-back. It’s a great reach vehicle. Specifically in the U.S., besides recruiting teens, one of the key areas is shoppers and moms. If you start to look at ratings and the audience mix, NBC delivers a very wide audience.

    BAIRD: People haven’t looked at advertising as a destination during the Olympic Games like the Super Bowl, but they will. We’re excited about seeing that type of phenomenon take effect.

    BODEN: When Citi got into the Games and partnered with the USOC and NBC, we saw an opportunity to reconnect, to really start re-establishing ourselves back in the U.S. as America’s global bank, a bank that is American and a bank that connected more with a warmth and a sincerity. The Olympics undoubtedly offers us that opportunity.

    Brands look to improve brand perception but need to track those improvements

    What do you want said about your company or property at the end of the Olympics?

    Samsung's Ralph Santana
    That Samsung transformed the way people connected with the Olympic movement by showing them they’re connected in ways they otherwise would have never known. And ultimately that we’re able to leverage the power and cultural currency of that movement to keep this brand top of mind for consumers.

    BAIRD: I’d love this group of people to say, “The [USOC and IOC are] our most valuable partner.’”

    MCCUNE: Our benchmark is that our annual report for 2010 said that the FIFA World Cup drove our business in the second and third quarter. I would love for our 2012 annual report to say the Olympic Games drove our business.

    HUNT (IOC): It’s important that our partners have the best experience they possibly can. Those aren’t hollow words. Everyone on our team is working hard to deliver for our partners.

    BRENNAN: We’d like to have people say that Hilton helped enable the furtherance of world peace and the ideals of the Olympics and as a result of that we’ve been able to reach out and touch the people who care about the Olympic movement internationally.

    MILLSLAGLE: For Dow, it’s twofold. It’s for the world to finally see the role that chemistry plays in the world of sport, and that Dow helped the athletes compete and achieve their dreams, that spectators could watch comfortably and do all of this in a sustainable and safe manner.

    BODEN: It’s Citi’s 200th anniversary this year. What a wonderful year this is for us to be celebrating that and be partnering with the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Olympic movement on the whole. In that history, we’ve been part of some incredibly important moments in the progress of humankind — the Panama Canal, the Boeing jet, the Marshall Plan and so forth. I would love to see coming out of this that people understand that we are a partner as people progress on their journey, from a line we’re using, from ambition to achievement.

    At Dow and Citi, you’ve talked about influencing brand perception. How are you going to measure that before and after the Games?

    MILLSLAGLE: At Dow we’re a bunch of engineers, so there’s a lot of math and science going on. We do brand tracker surveys pre and post. We’ll do individualized brand tracker surveys for people we bring to the Games. We’re doing quantitative studies with our employees to see if it is motivating them. We’re asking: Are we getting better recruits because of the Olympics? It’s very quantitative-based so we can see what we did well, what we should replicate moving forward.

    BODEN: You sound like my bankers. They’re measuring everything, too. My previous life was at LG. The one thing everyone at LG understood was numbers. Data. It’s very important to lay out quite clearly what you’re trying to achieve. There are clear metrics. The metrics may be more around creating a sense of connection, emotion. We are also, though, trying to seek the benefit of selling product. A significant portion of the campaign, 30 or 40 percent, is going to be around selling products, credit card products, banking products. There are a series of metrics.

    SANTANA: Everyone is saying it in different ways, but it’s brand equity and sales. On the equity side, specific to Genome, the things that we’re looking at are engagement, time spent with the app, how many people are sharing the app. On the sales side, we’ve got some clear messages around click-throughs on our website to products we’re going to be launching. We’re going to be doing pre and post analysis.

    On the sales side for Hilton and Coca-Cola, when do you start seeing sales lift and when do you start looking for it?

    Hilton's Scott Brennan
    We’ve already started to see it. As soon as we begin putting consumer-facing promotions in the marketplace, we can immediately start to track a direct response to that. Our “Come Dream With Us” sweepstakes in the U.S. is really off to a roaring start. It looks like we’re going to be very successful.

    MCCUNE: We’re looking at outcomes rather than outputs. We track outputs: how many impressions, how many expressions, time spent. But at the end of the day it’s outcomes. Did we change consumers’ attitudes and behaviors towards our brand? And did we sell more of our product more profitably?

    When will you see those sales?

    MCCUNE: It depends on when a country activates. We do these programs to build displays. Everyone who’s been in our business knows — you get displays built and it goes out the door. Now it’s a matter of did it go out more profitably than it did before — did more go out the door.

    BODEN: We have to be careful about this idea that it’s automatically going to drive sales. In our industry, it’s all about improving the propensity to engage. There are measurements that are going to be absolutely critical. As long as I’m bringing people to the branch or getting people to access our website on cards, then this association is probably doing its job. After that, can the next part of it deliver? That’s why I get concerned when people say, “Exactly what sales do you expect as a direct consequence of this?”

    MILLSLAGLE: We’re somewhat similar to you in that engagement factor. In the Olympic space we’re able to bundle all of our solutions — plastics, wire and cable, construction — together and target a bigger, higher order. We’ve been working on Sochi [2014], Rio [2016] and Korea [2018]. For us it’s an infrastructure play so it’s many, many years out.

    Are the USOC and IOC doing anything differently with measurement than you’ve done in the past to assist partners?

    USOC Chief Marketing Officer Lisa Baird
    We do a pre-tracking study that has a number of measurements. We listened to our partners and made a number of changes in it so we have the right inputs and are tracking the right engagement. That pre-tracking has just gone out and that will be our baseline measurement for this year’s activation.

    HUNT: We have introduced a new servicing model that’s very much focused on the values derived from the partnership, which I would say is focused on unique systems of measurement determined partner by partner. You look at GE or Dow, a lot of the value derived is on early integration. It’s important we make sure that they have a seat at the table with Pyeongchang [South Korea, site of the 2018 Winter Olympics] now as they’re rolling out their infrastructure projects. Whereas with other partners it skews very much to before the event and now. It’s not a one-size-fits-all model. It’s a new process for us. But it’s really important for us that we are able to show that here’s a return on investment.

    The amount of ambush marketing is expected to hit record levels

    What is the ambush temperature right now? It seemed to be there were more ambush activities around Vancouver than Beijing. What’s the read going into London?

    HUNT: Frankly, ambush is sort of a necessary evil. If you have a strong property, a strong brand, people want to associate with that. As I look at activity for London, we’re seeing on a global scale the number of submissions that have come through and will come through is almost a 1,000 percent increase from Beijing.

    BAIRD: We’ve taken the stance that it’s much better to be proactive about ambush than reactive. A couple of steps we’ve taken: In December we had a congressional hearing on the Hill and we did a briefing for Congress on what exactly ambush is in the United States and how it hurts the athletes when someone tramples on our rights. We have made a huge effort to do outreach to people to make sure not only are they not ambushing intentionally but also that they know what the rules are. The rules of the Olympic movement are a little more complicated, so explaining it to people is important. Last fall, we did a sports agent workshop with the agents representing the top 150 athletes in the United States. We explained the rules and since then we’ve just had a lot more proactive outreach from agents saying, “Is this an issue? Is this?”

    For the USOC and IOC, has the move into social created any complications in protecting sponsors?

    The IOC's Evan Hunt
    The old adage in sports marketing is you have to protect what you sell. That’s very much at the forefront of our mind because social has become such a dynamic in everyone’s program here that we have to take the appropriate steps to protect everyone’s rights. Some of the output of that is we have very good relationships with Facebook and Google.

    BAIRD: With the mass and the quantity of dialogue that is going to be going on, monitoring that is going to be a challenge. We’re staffing up to be able to monitor where we think there may be rights issues.

    SANTANA: Most corporations, at least ones that are part of the movement, are really clear internally about, “Here are the rules of the road.” We’re clear internally at Samsung about our rights, so there’s less of a risk within our corporations of social to be something that inadvertently causes an issue.

    HUNT: That’s an interesting point because one of the worst types of ambush is sponsor-on-sponsor ambush. Social kind of raises the likelihood of that.

    Do you feel better protected than four years ago?

    MCCUNE: It’s hard to say. We don’t spend a lot of time worrying about it. That’s their job. Our job is to go engage consumers, engage customers and shoppers.

    How important is the Olympics’ association with world peace and bringing the world together? Would you be sitting here if the Olympics didn’t have that association?

    BRENNAN: I say no. If you look at the principles Hilton was founded on, world peace through travel and tourism, you couldn’t find anything more aligned with that than what the IOC and USOC stand for.

    MILLSLAGLE: I’d say the same for Dow. For us, the Olympics stands for the improvement of human progress through sport. From a Dow Chemical standpoint, it’s the improvement of human progress through science. We see a marriage between the Olympics and Dow as very natural. Through research and science, we’re able to make advances that the athletes can use. We can make advances in the seats that spectators have to sit in. The ideals match up.

    SANTANA: If you really peel back the values of the Olympic movement with any major corporation there are going to be some common threads. The question is, How do you localize that and how do you capture and express those values in what your activation is all about?

    At the same time, the Olympic halo effect from its promotion of peace and bringing the world together also puts a big target on the event and sponsors. Protesters are using that to attack brands. We’ve seen that with Dow and Bhopal this year. We saw it in Beijing with Darfur. How does that affect you and what you’re doing?

    MCCUNE: It goes a little bit with the territory. Because of the nature and because of the attention the world gives the Olympics, it’s a platform for a [national governing body] or anybody else to have something to say come on. It’s not something we like. We ask these guys to help. But there’s not much you can do.

    Citi's Dermot Boden
    It’s similar to the ambush issue. We have to trust that folks will do the work they’re going to do and secure the Games. We get on and do our job and do it in the right way. Hopefully, that will negate as many potential opportunities for that activity as possible.

    What has been the key at Dow to dealing with pressure from protesters around the Bhopal catastrophe?

    MILLSLAGLE: The way we’ve been handling it is we’re not letting it deter us. We’re taking a stronger voice. We’re making sure the world knows all of the positive things Dow’s doing. Our goal is really to bring sustainable, high-performance solutions to the Games. Now more than ever, we’re making sure individuals around the world understand Dow had a hand in building that track. Dow had a hand in building the turf. We’re trying to tell those positive stories.

    Is it fair to say that these protests are escalating?

    HUNT: The variance is probably the location of the Games and the message that comes from having the Games in a city like London and country like the U.K. It’s a democratic society so they are able to express their opinions in an orderly way. The main point for us is that we want to make sure through the organizing committees that the venues are safe, that the Games are delivered. As long as the operations aren’t altered in a negative way, we firmly believe that our partners, by doing what they’re doing and the activations they’re putting out, their messaging comes through.

    BAIRD: We’ve focused on the message that it is corporate partners and private donations that put Team USA on the field. We don’t get government funding in the United States for the Olympic team. One of the things we want to do is keep Americans focused and centered on that message. Its partners like Dow, Citi, Coca-Cola, Hilton, Samsung that really are providing the support necessary to get the athletes to the Games.

    BODEN: I’ll take it one step further. It’s not just the Olympic movement but the various organizations underneath that. The charity elements. The community elements. Each of us probably is doing a significant amount that impacts on communities in a very positive way that would not be happening if not for London.

    HUNT: If you take Lisa’s comment about the USOC and multiply that by 204 and replicate it, that’s the message. That’s powerful.

    Picking the right Olympic hopeful is no easy task

    What was the key in selecting the athletes who are representing your brands?

    SANTANA: I’m sure it differs by company here, but from Samsung’s perspective one thing we wanted to do was diversify and have current hopefuls and former athletes and Paralympians as well. Beyond that, you have to think about fit with your brand. In this age of social, you have to be looking at things like Klout scores and how much you can project the reach and utility of who you’re associating yourself with.

    BODEN: We’ve selected 13 athletes — 11 current and two past Olympians. We’re very careful in choosing athletes that are competitive, that have a chance of getting to the Games — that’s important — that represent our brand the right way, that they were consistent with the values we thought were important, the values we’re trying to inculcate in the brand.

    What brought Coca-Cola around to using athletes worldwide for the first time?

    MCCUNE: Our business is to tell the story, and the athletes fit into a big part of that, particularly the social aspect of it. What we asked was, Do they fit into the story? Then, Do they match up to the brand values? The diversity piece is critical, that’s why we have one from every continent. Do they have their own unique stories? And will they represent the brand? It wasn’t who’s going to win a gold medal.

    SANTANA: The tricky thing to balance is the sports. It’s easy to default to the high-profile sports. But again it goes to what your objectives are. If it’s about visibility and awareness, you may have to default there. But the beauty of something like what you’re talking about is you’ve got so many athletes and there are so many different stories that if you have fewer, then you have to think a little more hard about what sport they’re affiliated with.

    Is the selection process longer than you anticipated? Who helps you?

    BRENNAN: We use The Marketing Arm to help us. We also somewhat cheated and sponsored the entire top men’s gymnastics team and branded them all with Hilton HHonors and we supplemented them with a few others: a Paralympian, and we continued our relationship with Michael Phelps.

    SANTANA: The tricky part is when you reach out for hopefuls. There are some obvious choices that will be on teams and some bets. If you drive a relationship with them too early, then you may be in a difficult space when it comes time for the actual Olympics.

    BODEN: We chose off of a very big list of 200 to get down to basically 13. That’s a lot of work to try and do, but it’s really important work. It’s the centerpiece of the program.

    Changes sponsors want to see, an Olympic return to the U.S., and the events everyone wants to attend

    The IOC has talked about changing its TOP sponsorship program after 2020. What’s one change that would make it easier for you to get more value out of the Olympic rights you currently have?

    SANTANA: Technology is difficult. It’s moving so quickly and converging so quickly. I think it’s just something that really needs to be thought through. For all the players, it’s a really complex space. It transcends hardware and gets into software and platforms and user experience because increasingly everything is interconnected.

    MCCUNE: In this world that we would call liquid and linked, that content is everything. For any rights holder and owner of intellectual property, they’re going to have to stop thinking about, “I’m going to sell a broadcast right and then I’m going to sell a sponsorship.”

    MILLSLAGLE: The same goes for us. Samsung and Coke are customers of Dow. We don’t sell soda or TVs, but we are in them in a variety of ways. Moving forward, one thing to figure out is how can we make it easier for all parties to activate and get the most out of their partnership and not make it so painful.

    BRENNAN: We all share similar concerns. For you it may be hardware or content. For us, content plays a role, but it’s also what things do you do when you’re in a hotel. It’s not just a bed and a door and an area [where] you seal yourself up. There are common spaces. There is media that’s consumed. There are bars and restaurants. There are sports. Homewood Suites have basketball courts. Most of our properties have swimming pools. They all have gyms. We need to find a way to support that messaging but not tread on other people’s categories.

    BODEN: We’re so new to the Games that I’m not sure we have much to add. A suggestion or a thought, but when I think of other great sporting partnerships, I wonder if they really get leverage out of the fact that they have some of the great companies of the world involved. Is there a way of connecting those companies together more formally? When I was at Formula One, I challenged Bernie Ecclestone to bring a CEO session together. A lot of CEOs would enjoy getting together with a group of their peers when we have this common interest.

    How important is it for the Olympics to come back to the U.S.?

    MCCUNE: I think it’s critical to the Olympic movement.

    SANTANA: I’d second that.

    BRENNAN: It creates all kinds of enablements for the domestic customer we have, which is the largest customer we have. We could create all kinds of unique and interesting things to get the American public involved in a Games coming back here.

    What Olympic events does everyone have marked on their calendars?

    MILLSLAGLE: For Dow, it’s the opening ceremony. We’ve sponsored the stadium wrap. It’s a brand-new, innovative solution in the world of textile architecture.

    HUNT: I don’t have an event in particular, but my favorite place and thing to do at the Games is to go to the Olympic Village. It is a special place that really reminds me what this is all about. The level of excitement, the feeling, the vibe. For those of us who have played sports, it’s the locker room plus so much more.

    SANTANA: I have two. One is obvious. One is obscure. Women’s soccer is going to be just amazing this year. And I found out from my personal Genome that I’m connected to someone from my hometown who’s in shooting. It’s one of those perfect examples of a sport you may not follow that now I have an interest in.

    BODEN: On a very personal level, Wimbledon [for the Olympic tennis events]. This is the meeting of one of the oldest sports in the world with one of the broadest communities of the world. And there’s something interesting in how that marries itself. It’s going to be very special.

    MCCUNE: I’m looking forward to the staff party two days after the closing ceremony.

  • NBC’s digital rivals line up with their own London 2012 sites

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    FoxSports.com is preparing its most extensive Olympic coverage.
    NBC may own the rights to the Olympic rings, but that won’t stop its competitors from snagging some of the network’s digital audience and advertising dollars. FoxSports.com, Sports Illustrated, USA Today Sports Media Group and Yahoo! Sports have all rolled out London 2012 websites and editorial content.

    “It’s a great event, and it’s the biggest opportunity to showcase your site and add audience,” said Dave Morgan, USA Today Sports Media Group’s senior vice president of content and editor-in-chief.

    This year may provide the best chance for non-rights holders to snag digital dollars that brands and media buyers are devoting to the Olympics. For the first time, NBC required advertisers to buy TV time in order to be able to buy digital advertising on NBCOlympics.com. For advertisers that want to be affiliated with the Games but don’t want to buy TV time on NBC, Olympic coverage on the sites of ESPN, Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, USA Today and Yahoo! Sports offers the next best thing. Unlike NBC, those outlets aren’t limited by IOC rules that limit sponsors’ branding to a certain percentage of an official partner’s Web page.

    IOC sponsor P&G already has committed to advertise on Yahoo!, while U.S. Olympic Committee sponsors Citi and DeVry have bought advertising with Fox Sports, and non-Olympic sponsor Lexus is advertising with Sports Illustrated.

    Yahoo!’s approach to the Olympics in recent years has become a blueprint of sorts for the entire industry. The company hired writers and developed dedicated sports pages filled with original content during the 2006 Torino Games. The effort delivered more unique visitors to Yahoo! than NBC-Olympics.com attracted, according to comScore Media Metrix. This summer Yahoo! will build on that by taking its strategy international. It will customize content for 25 countries in dozens of languages and offer it on Yahoo! portals around the globe.

    “We have dominated the last few Olympics, but we haven’t put these things together holistically as a company before,” said Ken Fuchs, the company’s head of sports, entertainment and games.

    As Yahoo! did in 2006, FoxSports.com is preparing its most extensive coverage of the Olympics. Last May, MSN approached Fox because it wanted to “go big” on the Games, said Marla Newman, Fox Sports senior vice president of digital sales. Fox-Sports.com responded. It launched a special site last week devoted to the London Games. Fox has told advertisers that it expects 40 million unique visitors during the Games.

    Sports Illustrated took a more official approach to its Olympic coverage and sales than competitors. It signed an agreement with the USOC making it a preferred advertising outlet for USOC sponsors. It will roll out an iPad app, unrelated to its USOC deal, called “Live from London” that is sponsored by Lexus.

    USA Today’s effort is spearheaded by Morgan, who worked at Yahoo! from 2006 to 2011. A total of 80 people will be working for Gannett on the Olympics. The staff will contribute to Gannett’s 81 newspapers, 24 TV stations and 500 websites. It will publish an Olympic preview in July and produce a daily sports section in London throughout the Games.

    For its part, ESPN says it plans to treat the Olympics online and on mobile the same way it treats other big sporting events to which it does not hold the media rights. ESPN believes it has become the default digital home for any live sporting event, whether it is on ESPN or not.

    “It’s not different from what you would normally expect from ESPN,” said John Kosner, ESPN Digital Media senior vice president and general manager.

  • USA Track & Field brings aboard former DEI president as new CEO

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    Max Siegel
    USA Track & Field last week named Max Siegel, former president of global operations for Dale Earnhardt Inc., its CEO, ending a 19-month search for a new leader.

    The organization had been without a CEO since Doug Logan was fired in September 2010.

    Siegel, 47, will earn a base salary of $500,000 with an option for bonuses. By hiring Siegel, the USATF board becomes the second major Olympic organization to name one of its former board members to its top job. The U.S. Olympic Committee board did the same in 2009, when it named board member Stephanie Streeter interim CEO. She faced tremendous pressure from Olympic constituent groups, which raised questions about her qualifications for the job.
    Siegel was on the board of USATF from 2009 until late last year, when he stepped down so that his sports marketing agency, Max Siegel Inc., could be hired by USATF to manage the organization’s marketing and sales efforts.

    USATF Chairwoman Stephanie Hightower pointed to examples of other organizations elevating board members to CEO as proof that doing so is a common practice.

    “The real issue here is that Max was not on the board when he was selected for this position,” Hightower said. “I don’t understand why anyone would be cringing, because he was not a board member when we started this process.”

    USATF board member Steve Miller said that Siegel’s knowledge of the organization and his knowledge of sports made him the best candidate for the job. Since USATF hired him in October, Siegel has focused on improving the group’s relationships with existing sponsors, strengthening its marketing materials and evaluating its assets. His agency hasn’t sold any major sponsorships, but has signed an affinity deal with Nationwide and done some work with USOC-sponsor Citi.

    Siegel was named following the USATF’s second search for a CEO. It failed to agree to terms with a CEO in its first search, which concluded last spring and included as finalists New York Road Runners CEO Mary Wittenberg and University of Oregon track coach Vin Lananna. At the time, the organization struggled to find someone who was willing to move to Indianapolis to take the job. That was not an issue for Siegel, who is an Indianapolis resident.

  • USSA hires CMO with expertise in TV, skiing

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    The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association has hired CBS Sports Network sales executive Michael Jaquet as its new chief marketing officer.

    Jaquet, who grew up skiing and helped create the U.S. Freeskiing Open, fills a position that has been vacant since the USSA’s former chief revenue and marketing officer, Andrew Judelson, left for a job at WWE.

    New USSA CMO Michael Jaquet
    The hire comes two years before USSA teams return to the snow at the Olympics in Sochi. Between now and then, Jaquet will be tasked with improving the organization’s revenue by signing new sponsors and improving the organization’s use of both TV and digital media. He will manage a team of eight employees.

    USSA President and CEO Bill Marolt said the organization looked at approximately 15 candidates for the position, but ultimately selected Jaquet because he had the right mix of sales, TV knowledge and familiarity with the organization, which he was a member of growing up.

    “His passion and enthusiasm for the sport and USSA was the tipping point,” Marolt said. “That combined with his sales ability — he’s a really good sales person — and his huge background in television made it an easy decision.”

    Jaquet, who was a member of the ski team at the University of Colorado, founded the freeskiing publication Freeze Magazine in 1996 and became director of sales and marketing at Transworld Media in 2002. In 2005, he joined College Sports Television as vice president of sports marketing. He became vice president of television and properties sales after it was acquired by CBS and renamed CBS Sports Network.

    He will join USSA on May 21. He does so at a time when USSA’s board reportedly is devising succession plans for Marolt, who is expected to retire after the Sochi Games.

    Jaquet said that coming to work for Marolt, regardless of how long he is president and CEO, was a major reason he took the job. He said his primary goal as CMO is to find new sponsors.

    “This is obviously a sport I’m passionate about, and I believe I can get regular fans and Madison Avenue excited about it,” Jaquet said. “They have the best content in the world right now, and it’s going into a very attractive Olympics, Sochi. The sport is ripe for a great run.”

  • Value, inspiration drive Paralympian appeal

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    BP is one of several companies tapping into Paralympians in its advertising, using nearly as many Olympians (five) as Paralympians (four).
    When McDonald’s decided to feature Marlon Shirley on cups during the 2004 Athens Games, it signified a breakthrough for the Paralympics. For the first time, one of its stars was being showcased at the restaurant nationwide alongside recognizable Olympians such as gymnast Carly Patterson.

    Nearly a decade later, Shirley, the first amputee to break 11 seconds in the 100 meters, is slated to appear in Procter & Gamble campaigns alongside athletes such as swimmer Ryan Lochte and gymnast Jordyn Wieber. But he’s no longer unique. More than a dozen other Paralympians will be showcased this summer in Olympic marketing campaigns by sponsors ranging from BP to Visa and Coca-Cola to 24 Hour Fitness.

    “There’s a growing recognition of the awesomeness of Paralympians’ abilities,” said Patrick Quinn of Chicago Sports & Entertainment Partners, who represents Shirley. “Paralympic deals used to be fewer and farther between and not paid as well, but now there’s no question there are more Paralympic deals and they’re growing in compensation and activation.”

    Marketing opportunities and exposure for Paralympians has been on the rise since the early 2000s, and Olympic marketers say the increasing integration of Paralympians in promotions alongside Olympians ahead of the London Games is a breakthrough that closes the gap in awareness between the Paralympics and the Olympics.

    The Paralympic Games will begin in London on Aug. 29 and feature disabled athletes competing in 20 sports over eight days.

    This summer offers a series of firsts in the Paralympic space. BP is one of the first sponsors to endorse a nearly equal number of Olympians (five) as Paralympians (four); Coca-Cola will air its first, stand-alone 30-second spot around a Paralympian, swimmer Jessica Long; and 24 Hour Fitness will maintain Olympic advertising, which features Paralympic runner April Holmes, in its facilities through the end of the Paralympic Games in September.

    Once a distant afterthought to the Olympics, the Paralympics are clearly on the rise. Research conducted by the U.S. Olympic Committee in 2002 showed that only 5 percent of Americans were aware of the Paralympics. A similar study conducted in March by nonprofit research firm SRI showed that 73 percent of Americans are aware of the Paralympics ahead of the London Games.

    The reasons awareness has swelled and sponsors are using Paralympians more include the USOC’s move to change how it sells and promotes the Paralympics, the decade of wars that injured a host of enlisted men and women, and perhaps most important, Paralympians’ stories of overcoming challenges that rival — and in many cases supersede — those of Olympians.

    The USOC created a Paralympic office in 2001, but it wasn’t until 2005 that the organization took over management of the governing body for national Paralympic teams. Initially, the USOC focused on developing the infrastructure to manage the U.S. Paralympic team. It later began integrating the U.S. Paralympic rights into its sales package, so that sponsors who sign a deal with the USOC also get U.S. Paralympic rights.

    “There was nobody focused on selling or utilizing the Paralympic brand when we started,” said Charlie Huebner, chief of U.S. Paralympics. “It was an undeveloped asset.”

    Since taking the U.S. Paralympics under its wing, the USOC has developed more assets around the organization for sponsors. The Warrior Games, which it developed in collaboration with the U.S. armed forces in 2010, is probably the most appealing thing it has developed. The Warrior Games were designed to introduce injured service members to Paralympic sports after they returned from war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Deloitte signed on as a presenting sponsor of the annual event.

    “That’s really changed the public perception of Paralympic athletes,” said Heather Novickis, an agent at Octagon who represents Paralympic swimmer Jessica Long. “People are more open and knowledgeable of disabilities and our soldiers now because of what we’ve been through as a country.”

    USOC sponsor Deloitte has latched onto the property and become so enthralled with the Paralympics that it regularly hires Paralympians to speak to its staff and clients. The power of stories like Holmes, a college track star who lost her leg boarding a train in Philadelphia and now trains able-bodied runners, puts listeners’ lives in perspective in ways that speeches from a traditional Olympian can’t.

    The Hartford, an official sponsor of the U.S. Paralympic team, has become so awestruck by those stories that it hires Paralympians to make 250 appearances a year for customers and clients of its long- and short-term disability insurance. Their appeal onstage was part of what inspired The Hartford to develop two commercials that debuted during the 2010 NCAA men’s basketball championship that featured paralympic swimmer Melissa Stockwell and Paralympic cyclist Sam Kavanagh.

    Coca-Cola made a similar decision when it came to its advertising plans around the London Games. Dina Gerson, Coke’s director of Olympic marketing, said the company rarely develops 30-second spots around athletes it signs for the Olympics but found Long’s story so compelling that it wanted to build a spot to showcase her.

    “Paralympians are very genuine,” said Gordon Kane, founder of Chicago-based Victory Sports Marketing and a former director of marketing at the USOC. “If you filled a room and said LeBron James and April Holmes are going to speak, people would come to hear LeBron, but I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts April is the one they’ll remember.”

    Sponsors and agents say Paralympians command fewer endorsement dollars than able-bodied athletes, but that the number of opportunities afforded to them is on the rise and so is what sponsors are willing to pay for their services. Where an Olympic gold medalist might earn $10,000 for a corporate appearance, a Paralympian might get a high price of $5,000 to $7,000 because they’re typically willing to work for less and know they’re less recognizable than an Olympic star such as Michael Phelps or Natalie Coughlin.

    “The Olympics are such a giant global thing that in order to catch up to them, the Paralympics have a long way to go,” Quinn said. “But I do think it will keep improving, especially as companies continue to look for what is the best investment. There’s huge value to be had in Paralympians.”

  • NBC’s Olympic promos will cover 20 channels, 66 websites

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    With Comcast’s assets at its disposal, NBC Sports this week plans to roll out its most robust and comprehensive Olympic promotional push.

    The company plans to feature 30-second advertisements across 20 channels and 66 websites over the last 100 days leading up to the London Games. The promotional efforts will kick off Wednesday with a spot featuring 16-year-old swimmer Missy Franklin during the “Today” show.

    The Franklin spot will be complemented by a 100-days-out spot that reminds viewers that “the world comes together in London” soon, said John Miller, head of NBC Sports Agency, which handles marketing and branding for NBC Universal’s sports division. The other major piece of creative that will begin airing this week is a spot that integrates top advertiser General Motors into 30 memorable moments from past Olympics. Viewers will be encouraged to vote for their favorite moment online at NBCOlympics.com.

    For the first time in NBC’s Olympic history, spots will run on Comcast-owned cable channels such as E! and Style. They also will run in the homes of Comcast subscribers, and customized ads will air on NBC affiliates.

    NBC Sports will supplement its TV ad campaign with signage at NBC Universal theme parks and advertising at gas stations, Best Buy stores and with American Airlines.

    “There’s an awful lot of hyperbole that goes around these things, but this particular time it’s the biggest Olympic campaign we’ve ever had, mostly because our company is bigger,” Miller said. “We’re not taking any chances. We want to make sure these Games are in the top tier and well-watched.”

    Miller said the focus of the spots is on reminding people who watched the Beijing and Vancouver Games that the London Olympics are on the horizon. NBC’s research shows that those viewers enjoyed watching those Games and are more inclined to watch this summer’s Olympics.

    As summer begins, the advertising campaign will shift its focus from the previous Olympics to the stars NBC plans to showcase this summer. Spots will highlight top athletes such as swimmer Michael Phelps, beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh and gymnast Jordyn Wieber.

    U.S. Olympic Committee sponsors Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch and BMW also will be featured in sponsor-integrated spots. Coke’s spots will feature conversations with Olympic hopefuls; Anheuser-Busch’s will feature youthful music; and BMW’s will feature footage of top athletes.

  • Nike scores in Brazil with ‘16 Olympic deal

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    Nike has signed a sponsorship agreement with Rio 2016 and the Brazilian national team, scoring a major corporate victory in the race for market share in fast-growing Brazil.

    The deal gives Nike its first official Olympic organizing committee sponsorship since the 2000 Sydney Games. It represents a tremendous opportunity to strengthen Nike’s brand positioning in Brazil and generate strong licensed merchandise sales on the back of Brazil’s emerging middle class.

    Under terms of the four-year deal, Nike will receive marketing and licensing rights to the Rio Games. It also will outfit all Brazilian national teams (except volleyball, which is sponsored by Olympikus) for the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Games. Unlike most Olympic apparel partners, Nike won’t outfit volunteers working at the Rio Games, and it is still being determined if it will provide opening and closing ceremony apparel for the Brazilian team, sources familiar with the deal said.

    Financial terms weren’t available, but sources valued the deal in the $25 million to $40 million range. The total is significantly less than Rio organizers could have gotten for the deal.

    Rio organizers opted to take Nike’s tier-three sponsorship offer over a tier-one sponsorship proposal from the Brazilian sportswear brand Olympikus, which is owned by Vulcabras Azaleia. In doing so, it is expected to become the first organizing committee to split team and volunteer outfitting into separate categories. They are expected to begin searching for a volunteer outfitting sponsor later this year, but it’s unclear where the organizing committee will turn to find an outfitter for that workforce.

    Adidas paid $127 million for a tier-one sponsorship agreement for the 2012 London Games. But Brazil needed an outfitter for its national teams for the upcoming London Games, and sources said it chose Nike because of its reputation for product innovation.

    Adidas, the official sportswear partner of the Athens, Beijing and London Games, did not compete for the Rio 2016 sponsorship. As an official FIFA partner, the company will have a dominant position in Brazil during the 2014 World Cup.

    Rio 2016 already has signed five tier-one sponsorships and surpassed its goal of raising $570 million in sponsorship revenue. The organizer’s last tier-one deal with Nissan reportedly was worth $250 million. Its other tier-one partners are Bradesco, Bradesco Seguros, Claro and Embratel. It has a tier-two sponsorship with Ernst & Young.

    The 2016 Olympics sponsorship is a departure for Nike. The company historically sponsors Olympic teams, not organizing committees. It last sponsored an organizing committee in 2000 when it replaced Reebok as the official sportswear partner less than a year before the Sydney opening ceremony. Reebok had withdrawn from its sponsorship after alleging that Sydney organizers breached their contract. Within days, Nike reached an agreement with the International Olympic Committee and Sydney organizers to replace Reebok.

    Though the deal for the 2000 Olympics was cut hastily, Nike benefited from strong licensed product sales during the Games. Sources close to the deal with Rio 2016 said the company expects licensed product sales during those Olympics to be huge because of the growth of the Brazilian middle class and worldwide interest in Rio. Organizers of the 2016 Olympics projected more than $50 million in licensed merchandise sales in their IOC bid in 2008.

    The deal included two other appealing components for Nike. First, it will be the dominant brand worn by Brazilian athletes in every sport from sailing and tae kwon do to track and field and soccer, which it already outfitted. Second, it doesn’t require the company, as is customary, to outfit the 50,000-plus volunteers who work an Olympics. That gives Nike the assurance, which the company prefers, that its brand will only be featured on athletes.

  • New USOC website ‘driven by the story of the athletes’

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    The USOC's new site uses a collage of photos and videos that link to stories.
    The U.S. Olympic Committee is poised to unveil a new website this week that is a radical departure from the traditional team and league sites that dominate sports.

    The site eschews text and headlines in favor of photos and videos that form a collage where visitors pick and choose what interests them. It hews closer to Pinterest and Flipboard than NFL.com or MLB.com.

    “We wanted to create a new content strategy that makes Americans feel part of the team,” said John Pierce, the USOC’s managing director, brand management and research. “This new site is much warmer, more personable and more energetic. It is driven by the story of the athletes.”

    The USOC began working on the new site late last summer. Its board approved $1 million in spending on the effort. The organization last redesigned its site before the 2008 Beijing Games.

    VML, a full-service digital agency and division of Young & Rubicam, assisted with the effort. The agency previously designed sites for the English Premier League and Waste Management and regularly works on digital projects for Gatorade, Kellogg’s and others.

    The version of TeamUSA.org that launched in 2008 looked like many sports sites on the Web. A headline with a primary photo formed the main story, and four other stories rotated through that main window. Blog posts and athlete bios showcased the only other photos.

    The new site features a large, horizontal photo in the upper left corner and a series of smaller vertical and horizontal photos down the page. All of the photos connect to stories and slideshows that tell the stories of U.S. athletes.

    The format will make it easier for the USOC’s six-person digital staff to keep the site looking fresh and updated. It also allows visitors to organize the photos on the page by three options: most popular, most viewed and “inspire me,” a tab that puts the emphasis on the home page on inspiring stories of Olympians and Olympic moments.

    “The older version didn’t have the emotional connection we wanted to have for the new version,” said Mike Wente, VML’s managing director and executive creative director. “This is more of an unconventional approach that pushes the envelope and presents the brand differently.”

    In addition to remaking the USOC home page, the organization overhauled the sites of 17 national governing bodies. Those sites will look similar to the USOC’s home page.

    The imagery-rich site reserves space for banner and display advertising. Most of the advertising will be in the form of sponsor-branded content similar to the current video series called the “Road to London presented by Hilton HHonors.” The USOC plans to offer some of that branded-content inventory as part of its agreement with its existing sponsors. Other inventory will be sold as an added buy to sponsors.

    Pierce said the USOC doesn’t plan to sell to advertisers outside the Olympic family.

    Applications for mobile phones and tablets also will be available.
    The USOC also plans to unveil its first mobile phone and tablet application next month. The app, which will be available on Android and Apple operating systems, features athlete bios, social media, photo galleries, Olympic trials dates and TV listings.

    Both the app and the USOC’s new website will highlight members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team as they are selected during Olympic trials events in the coming months.

    “The NFL and NBA have a draft,” Pierce said. “You know which athlete is on which team in one day or three days. For us, that process transpires over 100 days or so. We wanted to turn that into an advantage by encouraging fans to come back every day to see who has qualified to represent their country.”

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