• Team GB hopes London success keeps sponsorship money in tow

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    Great Britain's Jessica Ennis was one of several gold medalists for the Olympic host.
    More than $1 billion in British sponsorship money flowed into the Olympics during the past seven years, and the marketplace is watching closely to see if any brands reserve some marketing dollars to support Olympic sports in the future.

    Team Great Britain, which has been supported over the last seven years by a public lottery, has not traditionally attracted a lot of sponsorship cash, and most of the marketing dollars in the U.K. is directed to the English Premier League.

    The success of Team GB over the last two weeks has many sports marketing executives in the U.K. optimistic that will change.

    “It will be interesting to see what the legacy will be,” said Sam Rush, chief operating officer of Wasserman Media Group’s European business. “Football is all we care about here. In six weeks time, will we be back to the Premiership or will some sports such as cycling continue to grow?”

    Steve Martin, CEO at M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment, which worked with Coca-Cola during the Olympics, said he expects some of the brands that sponsored the Olympics the last seven years will look to extend that commitment and capitalize on the nation’s nascent passion for Team GB sports, but he was uncertain of how extensive their investments would be.

    “The Team GB guys have to go to the market next week because their sponsorships end after the Games,” Martin said. “You can look at that as an unbelievable opportunity because the Games have shown how sport can generate passion and the power of aligning with Team GB, or it could be a problem because of the macro environment we’re in means that not everyone is flush with cash after the credit crunch. Nobody knows if the dollars will roll in or if it will be doom and gloom.”

    Some of the sponsorship dollars will be redirected into other big sports events destined for the U.K. in the coming years. The nation will host track and field’s world championships in 2013, the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and the Rugby World Cup in 2015.

    That will make it tough for Olympic sports to keep sponsors’ marketing dollars, but marketing executives believe that after brands have evaluated results from the London Games, they will preserve some commitment to Olympic sports.

    “A lot of it will get re-invested into other sponsorships and sporting properties,” said Eddie May, who heads Threepipe Sport, a sports marketing PR agency. “Because of some of the success of Team GB, there will be a big appetite to keep involved in these sports in big ways. A fair proportion of it will still be there. I don’t think all of that investment will suddenly stop after the Olympics.”

  • Yahoo claims victory over NBCOlympics.com with 2 billion page views

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    It’s an Olympics, and Yahoo is again claiming supremacy over NBCOlympics.com in online reach metrics related to the Games.

    Three days after NBCOlympics.com said it has surpassed 1.1 billion online page views for the London Olympics to date, Yahoo said Thursday that it has surpassed 2 billion page views for its Olympic coverage through Monday across computer, mobile and tablet platforms. The Yahoo total, the result of internal metrics, is more than its total coverage of the Vancouver and Beijing Olympics combined.

    Yahoo also said it has reached more than 80 million unique visitors globally for its coverage from London.

    During both Vancouver and Beijing, Yahoo beat NBCOlympics.com reach metrics, and to that end, the London totals are not surprising. Yahoo has held the top spot in regular monthly sports reach rankings in all but one month during the past four years, and the company frequently touts itself as the starting point on the Internet.

    Furthermore, the Olympics are a mainstream cultural event that appeals to casual and non-sports fans, an audience Yahoo reaches more easily than NBCOlympics.com.

  • NBC still on pace for best Summer Games prime-time rating since 1996

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    NBC is averaging an 18.5 final rating and 32.8 million viewers through the first 12 nights of prime-time coverage for the London Games, up 8 percent and 12 percent, respectively, from the same period for the 2008 Beijing Games.

    Tuesday’s coverage was highlighted by gold-medal finals for individual gymnastics events, track and field’s women’s 100-meter hurdles and the second women’s beach volleyball semifinal. The network remains on pace for the highest-rated and most-viewed Summer Games since the 1996 Atlanta Games. Tuesday night’s coverage finished with a 17.6 rating and 30.1 million viewers, up 8 percent and 11 percent, respectively, from the same night in Beijing (see chart).

  • NBC earns 18.6 overnight prime-time rating, up 3% from Beijing

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    NBC earned an 18.6 overnight rating for Wednesday night’s London Games coverage, which featured Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings winning their third consecutive gold medal in women’s beach volleyball. Also featured was the finals for the men’s 100-meter hurdles, which saw U.S. runners Aries Merritt and Jason Richardson take the gold and silver medals, respectively. While figures could change when final numbers are released later today, that overnight is up 3 percent from the same night in Beijing.

  • Wasserman in talks with NGBs as agency expands Olympic business

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    Wasserman Media Group is in discussions with at least one U.S. national governing body about becoming its sponsorship sales agency. The conversations come on the heels of the agency’s move to combine its Olympics and action sports practices and expand its Olympics work from athlete representation to strategic marketing and property sales.

    The California-based sports marketing company in May realigned its staff to create a new Action Sports & Olympics division. Leading the group are Wasserman principal Steve Astephen, who represents Travis Pastrana and Ryan Sheckler, and Dan Levy, vice president of Action Sports & Olympics, who represents Mia Hamm and others.

    Levy credited the new resources being devoted to the group with helping it land gold-medal-winning gymnast Jordyn Wieber as a client shortly before the London Games. The group hired Tasha Schwikert, a former Olympic gymnast who won bronze in the 2000 Sydney Games, after creating the new division, and Schwikert recruited Wieber.

    “The Jordyn signing is interesting because it seems like a natural extension for us, but without committing to growing the resources the way we did, we may not have been able to get into gymnastics,” Levy said.

    In addition to signing Wieber, Wasserman has worked with USA Cycling on sponsorship sales and has begun talking to other national governing bodies about managing their sponsorship sales, as well.

    Levy said the action sports and Olympics division will hire more staff and will lean on the rest of Wasserman’s staff to support the group.

    “We’re in an aggressive mode and see an opportunity from here to Rio,” Levy said. “Rio is going to be enormous.”

  • Olympic Roundtable: Experts weigh in on brands, ambush marketing

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    From left, Radiate Group's Jan Katzoff, The Marketing Arm's Mary O'Connor and IMG's Gary Pluchino
    With the Olympics beginning to wind down, we pulled together a small group of sports marketing executives on the ground to talk about how the London Games have gone and how they will be remembered.

    The group met at Casa Brazil, home to Rio 2016, in Somerset House on the Strand. It was comprised of Jan Katzoff, the Radiate Group’s executive vice president; Mary O’Connor, The Marketing Arm’s vice president of Olympic marketing and global partnerships; and Gary Pluchino, IMG senior vice president and head of global Olympic consulting. Between them, they work with more than 20 Olympic sponsors.

    We split the conversation into two parts. The first is on brands and what organizers have done. Friday, we’ll hit on legacy and what Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 can learn from London. Both were edited.

    What brands that you aren’t working with have done the best job marketing around these Olympics?

    PLUCHINO: It’s hard to say who’s done the best. Everyone’s got different objectives and different budgets.

    O’CONNOR: Visa’s campaign has taken a new twist. I love the David Boudia spot from Dubai. It’s ingenious integrating different athletes into different countries. The spot says, on average, he makes 25,000 dives a year, I believe, and it’s simulated as if it’s 180 dives off the world’s tallest building in Dubai. It’s fantastic creative.

    BMW's Mini has played a support role at the Olympic Stadium.
    I’m also intrigued by how BMW infiltrated the sponsor-free venue of the stadium to get their vehicles actually in there.

    Not once but twice because BMW got a Mini into the opening ceremony as well.

    KATZOFF: Yes. That was the first time that’s happened since Atlanta.

    PLUCHINO: Also, I think we had Mr. Bean with a Samsung Galaxy.

    KATZOFF: Samsung is the one that really got through to me. Not only because of what they’ve done with the Olympics, but the fact that they could time the product launch to get it out right now with all of this going on. … The mobile payments, I don’t know if you’ve seen that phone and its payments, what they’ve done with Visa is amazing.

    PLUCHINO: Honestly, not just because two people who work with them are here, I like what BP has done. From an integration perspective, what they’ve done on the Park, how they’ve integrated athletes, what they’ve done at USA House, all of the things moving around the city that I’ve seen — I think they’ve done a very good job. They have a specific objective they’re trying to reach.

    British heptathlete Jessica Ennis has become a face of the Games in London.
    I’m impressed with what they’ve done with (British heptathlete) Jessica Ennis, too. She obviously has a lot of sponsors, but they jumped in there early. I remember being here a year and a half ago and her face was staring at me from every gas pump. She’s become the face of the Games.

    If those brands get an A grade, what sponsors get demerits?

    PLUCHINO: I’ll give you one that’s missed the opportunity. It’s Acer. They have a nice, big facility out there at Olympic Park, but it’s truly a product showcase. It’s a computer show. I’ve heard people come out of it saying, “It isn’t interactive. It’s not any fun.”

    Could the IOC learn something from that? You can’t make a company activate, but couldn’t you be more selective in who your sponsors are?

    PLUCHINO: It’s not quite that easy. Everybody has their own objectives. Everybody is able to leverage how they want as long as it’s in the rules. In theory, you’re right, but they still have open slots in the TOP program that they’re trying to fill.

    Mary, did you have someone you didn’t feel like connected on this stage?

    O’CONNOR: I haven’t seen anyone who I say, “I wish they’d done more.” The one company I haven’t seen a lot of, and it may be because I’m in my little hole, is: I’ve seen a lot of Omega people, but I haven’t seen what they’re doing.

    KATZOFF: SportsMark (a Radiate agency) is managing their hospitality. Their major activation is Soho House. It’s very exclusive. They’re doing all their brand ambassador programs there. We did the Greg Norman media event there talking about golf coming back to the Olympics. They did their Astronaut program there.

    The only one for me, and like Mary said, it’s not fair to be critical of programs we’re not involved in, but I’m just trying to figure out why McDonald’s seems to be pretty quiet to me for a worldwide sponsor.

    O’CONNOR: I like the storefront (restaurant on Olympic Park). I went so that I could say I was at the world’s biggest McDonald’s.

    On the ambush front, there was the brand police issue coming into this, but there’s been no real ambush issues arise during the Games. Are you surprised?

    O’CONNOR: (Knocking on the wooden table) Compared to Vancouver, where I spent 90 percent of my time dealing with ambush against our clients, this Games has been a dream come true.

    PLUCHINO: We haven’t had any problems. We haven’t heard much, either. There was the Dr. Dre Beat headphones, but that’s the only thing you’re hearing.

    So what’s the takeaway from how quiet it’s been in regards to ambush? What needs to be done similarly to ensure this happens in 2014 and 2016?

    O’CONNOR: A lot of it has to do with the education that’s come from what happened in Vancouver and Beijing, and the simple fact that the British government did a fantastic job of making it against the law to ambush. It’s brilliant. It’s smart. It protects sponsor rights.

    KATZOFF: The last two years of work have really paid off. A lot of times it really becomes a Games-time operation (to prevent ambush), but here there was a lot of work and a lot of thought and a lot of compliance issues that were put together. When you look at us together and the number of brands we’re activating here, it’s been remarkable.

    What about the downside of enforcement measures, such as forcing the local barbershop to take down the five-ring logo, which happened in limited cases around the city? Is the lesson for future cities to strike a balance between stopping Pepsi from ambushing and allowing local retailers to celebrate?

    PLUCHINO: There’s a line when it comes to the local barbershop celebrating the Olympics and welcoming the world and a commercial link between that. Using your local barbershop example, if they hang the Olympic rings in their window, should they be hit with whatever fine?

    KATZOFF: I would say looking forward that it’s more on the consumer retail side. None of us can control what the Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s (U.K. grocers) and other retail outlets are doing. The other thing is with the way businesses are changing, is Walmart a store or a bank? There are category issues. Also, some of these retailers are doing everything they can to move product around. The harder part down the line is controlling that third-party, retail affiliation. But overall, (ambush) hasn’t been an issue.

  • U.S. Olympic Committee experiences a digital explosion during Games

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    The U.S. Olympic Committee has seen digital traffic soar across all of its platforms during the London Games, from TeamUSA.org to YouTube and Facebook to Twitter.

    The USOC’s digital increases the last two weeks include an 82 percent jump to 2.5 million in unique visitors to its website; a 79 percent increase in subscribers to its new YouTube channel; a 20 percent increase in Facebook engagement; and a 170 percent increase in Twitter followers to more than 285,000.

    The increases are falling line in with the USOC’s strategy before the Games. The organization wanted to amass a huge audience on its social platforms so that it could continue to directly send them information and drive them to TeamUSA.org after the Olympics when most people begin to shift their attention to traditional sports like football and basketball.

    “We’ve been focused on asking, ‘What can we do now to grow social platforms so we can extend interest after the Games?’” said Sarah Hollis, USOC senior director of digital media and broadcast services. “We’ve been able to do that so far.”

    One of the biggest success stories for the USOC on the digital front has been increases in subscriptions for its YouTube channel. The channel is one of only a handful that YouTube is funding, and the USOC used that funding to develop videos about its athletes, film interviews with athletes and film segments around London.

    The total number of subscribers to the channel, which launched in the spring, has risen to 21,000. By comparison, Alli Sports, which runs the Dew Tour, has 44,000 subscribers for its channel.

    The new subscribers come at an important time for the USOC. Claude Ruibal, YouTube’s head of sports content, said he plans to make decisions later this year about what sports channels will continue to get YouTube funding. He met with USOC chief marketer Lisa Baird about it this week in London.

    The other big improvement is the increase in the number of people interacting with Team USA content on Facebook. Historically, only 5 percent of the USOCs fans on Facebook click “like” or comment on posts, but during the Games, that total has risen to 35 percent.

    For example, a recent video that was posted featuring Gabby Douglas highlights from the U.S. Olympic Trials last month got 220,000 “likes.”

    “It’s getting into more people’s news feeds and extending the reach we have to a broader audience,” Hollis said.

    The USOC has been producing 10 to 15 pieces of content for its website a day, ranging from photos to articles to videos.

    It has been able to monetize the site, as well. 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.

  • Olympics help Powerade ‘power through’ and increase market share

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    Powerade credits marketing around the 2010 World Cup with helping it cut six points out of Gatorade’s U.S. market share, and the company expects its first global campaign around the Olympics to deliver similar gains, said Jawad Bisbis, Coca-Cola’s director of sports brands.

    “We’re trying to outsmart the competition by using our strengths — the World Cup and Olympics,” Bisbis said. “We’re seeing early signs the business is sustaining momentum. I’m very confident this will be a defining moment for the brand.”

    Coca-Cola historically focused all of its Olympic marketing around its core, soft-drink brands like Coke and Sprite, but this year it added Powerade and Vitaminwater to the mix.

    Powerade developed the “Power Through” campaign for the London Games. Elements of the campaign are being used in 35 of its 70 markets worldwide. In the U.S., it’s airing commercials that show athletes training as a narrator talks about how the drink can help them perform their best. It also has print, digital and outdoor ads, signs in stores and an app.

    “The Olympics are not about the value of winning medals,” Bisbis said. “The values are about excellence in sport, being the best you can be and good sportsmanship. That’s what we want to be about. Empowering every athlete to be the best they can be.”

    Bisbis said that the number of markets participating in the campaign validates Powerade’s move in 2010 to begin using Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of the World Cup in its global marketing. In 2010, 30 of 70 markets advertised around the World Cup and saw business gains as a result.

    Globally, Powerade’s market share improved to 30 percent. Its biggest gains were in soccer-crazy Latin America, where it moved from a 20 percent share to a 30 percent share of the market.

    “It brought the system back to growth,” Bisbis said, adding that the sales success around the World Cup prompted five more markets to use the Olympics in their marketing efforts.

    In London, Powerade developed a branded “Hydration Center” that offers tips about staying hydrated to Olympians staying in the Athletes Village. It also distributed 48,000 Powerade Sports bottles to athletes.

    The brand set up a sports academy in West London where it brought in 75 amateur athletes from around the world to train with former Olympians like Mechelle Lewis Freeman. The athletes ranged in age from 23 to 67.

    While Freeman led the athletes in wind sprints earlier this week, Bisbis spoke about his expectations for Powerade’s growth during the Olympics. He said the brand won’t assess the impact of the Olympics for several months, but he was encouraged by early signs.

    “Year-to-date, the brand has done great,” Bisbis said. “We’re growing double digits. Brand share is up.”

    He expects that to continue as the London Games come to a close this Sunday.

  • Catching Up With: New York Road Runners CEO Mary Wittenberg

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    NYRR CEO Mary Wittenberg, shown in 2011, is attending her fourth Olympics
    New York Road Runners CEO Mary Wittenberg traveled to London for both the women’s and men’s marathon races. Before traveling to her fourth Olympics, she spent the first week of the Games at home in the U.S., watching on NBC. She spoke with SportsBusiness Journal reporter Tripp Mickle about NBC’s coverage, the health of track and field in the U.S., and what sponsors are doing well in London.

    What do you expect viewership for the marathon to be on NBC?

    WITTENBERG: It’s 6 a.m. on the East coast and 3 a.m. on the West. As you know, the Olympic numbers have been sky high. NBC is doing a phenomenal job. It was the right decision, with so much live streaming, to package the evening show and have a global viewing audience at one time. People who are diehards and interested in one sport can find it and go deep. It’s been smart. We’ll see if the audience carries over to 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.

    What will the Olympics do for track and field?

    WITTENBERG: I’m hopeful (Jessica Ennis’ win, Greg Rutherford’s long jump, Mo Farah’s win, Galen Rupp’s silver) reignited the sport of track and field beyond road running. Athletics is running, jumping and throwing. It was heptathlon, the long jump and the crowning moment of (Farah) winning with an impossible weight on his shoulders. It was a message of, “If you train right, you can win, no matter where you’re from.”

    How would you describe the atmosphere for track and field at Olympic Stadium?

    WITTENBERG: For Mo (Farah’s) and Rupp’s last lap (Saturday night), that stadium erupted. It was a crescendo of an evening of high points. You could not hear yourself think. It was almost so noisy you went white. It was a non-stop roar for that last lap. I’m trying to think of what I could compare it to watching. Maybe the Women’s World Cup at the Rose Bowl and the USA’s final goal. That kind of noise. I think it may have ignited track and field’s rebirth.

    What about in the U.S.? What will it take for it to catch back on there?

    WITTENBERG: These recent articles giving track and field a hard time are phenomenal because we’re going to look back in five years and say, “That was another turning point.” Ten years ago we had a turning point in distance running. We were at the bottom of the bottom in the United States. We couldn’t even put an Olympic team together. When we scrapped bottom, it was a moment for our sport to rally together. We said, “This is unacceptable. We have to support our athletes.” We found a way to do it. We know the sport of track and field is not dead. We know we have great athletes coming along. We know there are great companies supporting it like Nike, Brooks, Asics, New Balance. We know what’s coming.

    What companies are doing a good job with their sponsorship here?

    WITTENBERG: Samsung. You see their products in all their advertisements. Coke, when you’re out at the stadium, is doing a nice job with the street teams and when you go to Stratford station, one world beat, tying the music and sports together.

  • YouTube interested in extending Olympic live-streaming deals

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    YouTube is no closer to buying sports broadcast rights than it was six months ago, but the Google-owned video service is so enjoying its first live streaming of the Olympics in Asia and Africa that it wants to extend the partnership through 2016.

    Claude Ruibal, YouTube head of sports content, said that the company’s live stream of the Olympic Broadcast Services feed from London had been a success in 64 markets in Asia and Africa. The deal took nearly a year to complete and marks the first time the International Olympic Committee has partnered with YouTube to stream its international Olympic feed live in select markets.

    Under terms of the deal, YouTube takes 55 percent of advertising revenue and gives the other 45 percent to the International Olympic Committee.

    “It was different for them to take on that role and not have someone else be responsible for (the broadcast),” Ruibal said. “I would like to have a longer-term relationship where it’s not just a few months before the event but we can announce it earlier and be more successful finding advertisers. We had success with that but would like more lead time.”

    Ruibal said that the partnerships with the IOC and NBC, which it is providing with its digital video player for live streaming of the Olympics, has been a good way for YouTube to expand its knowledge as a distributor of live sports.

    “We want to have more live sports on YouTube,” Ruibal said. “We’re not going to go out and buy rights for English Premier League rights or the Olympics, but if we can partner with the IOC to offer live distribution in markets like Asia and Africa where their broadcasters aren’t going to show 2,000-plus hours, that’s great for us.”

    Ruibal said YouTube would partner with international sports federations over the next few years to show their world championships live. Doing so would add to a growing list of properties that have shown its events live on YouTube, including the Indian Premier League, Copa America and America’s Cup sailing.

    The company also hopes to create opportunities for other sports to have video-on-demand content on their own channel.

    Ruibal was unsure if YouTube would renew its deal with NBC Universal to serve as the video player for its live streaming on NBCOlympics.com during the 2014 or 2016 Games, and added that a decision won’t be made on that for a while.

    “It was really good for us at this point of time,” Ruibal said. “I love having the NBC content on our player. We see ourselves as a distributor, (but) with NBC’s business model that’s difficult because they have great distribution deals with cable and satellite distributors. I don’t see that model changing any time soon, so it’s difficult to get live content on YouTube. If that changed, that would be great.”

    The big, prime-time ratings NBC is putting up for the London Olympics haven’t surprised Ruibal. The network is streaming every event live for the first time during a Summer Games.

    “I’ve always argued with every broadcaster you meet that (streaming is) not going to cut into your audience,” Ruibal said. “It’s only going to augment it. People spend time on their handheld devices or PCs. If you’re not there, they might not be aware that something is happening.”

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