• U.S.-Russia game delivers record hockey streaming numbers for NBC

    NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports Live Extra app saw 589,552 unique streams for the U.S.-Russia men’s hockey game on Saturday morning, marking a record for any stream hockey game in NBC history (NHL or Olympics). The figure passed previous hockey marks set during the 2010 Vancouver Games and the 2013 Blackhawks-Bruins NHL Stanley Cup Final.

    The U.S.-Russia game also marks the second-best NBC Olympics stream ever.

    Tags: Hockey, NBC, Olympics, NHL
  • Avaya’s technology makes IOC’s promise of free WiFi possible

    If providing WiFi service to spectators at sports venues across the U.S. is tough, then providing it to the prickly and complaint-prone press corps and demanding Olympic family at the Sochi Games is downright dangerous for a company.

    But California-based Avaya, which is delivering WiFi at every venue, didn’t hesitate.

    “We’ll deliver during the Games, and we want to be sure people are talking sports and not technology,” said Dean Frohwerk, who leads Avaya’s solutions engineering efforts and is overseeing work at the Sochi Games.

    Delivering The Goods
    The top 5 apps used by Olympic executives, Olympians and media during a four-hour period:
    Twitter (5,130 MB)
    Facebook (2,222 MB)
    Skype (1,475 MB)
    Dropbox (778 MB)
    Instagram (746 MB)

    The company is the official supplier of network equipment in Sochi. It installed 2,500 wireless access points throughout Sochi’s venues, and its systems are processing 1-2 terabytes of data daily.

    The sponsorship has been good for Avaya’s business. Because Sochi was built from scratch, it was able to win contracts to provide services at many of the new hotels, restaurants and retail outlets being built before the Games.

    Frohwerk said Avaya’s business in Russia is up 120 percent since it became a Sochi supplier. It hit its revenue goals in the market two-and-a-half years into a four-year plan.

    He expects those numbers to rise further after hosting and demonstrating its work in Sochi to more than 70 CIOs it’s bringing to Sochi from companies around the world.

    “That’s when it really starts resonating with the customer,” Frohwerk said. “It’s not what you’re planning to do. It’s what you did.”

    Sochi 2014 is the first organizing committee to offer free WiFi to journalists, IOC members, coaches and athletes at every venue. At previous Olympics, journalists paid as much as $500 for Internet access and used Ethernet cables to file stories.

    The fact that the WiFi is free in Sochi meant that the estimate of usage soared from 2,000 reporters per day to 15,000. Add on Olympians, coaches and Olympic officials, who can all access the WiFi network, and Avaya is servicing more than 120,000 mobile devices a day.

    “For us it was zero to 40,000,” Frohwerk said, noting that there was no opportunity to test the network with that many people before the Games began.

    For the most part, the service has been effective. Service at the main press center in the mountains (Gorki Media Center) has been fickle, and there also were problems with the service at the media center at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. But service at venues in the Coastal Cluster has been smooth.

    After the Games are over, Avaya will evaluate its work in Sochi and share its analysis with organizers of the next Winter Games, Pyeongchang 2018. Frohwerk said he plans to bid to become the official supplier of those Olympics, as well.

    “We’re looking to increase market share across the Asia-Pacific region,” Frohwerk said. “Korea is a pearl in there.”

    Tags: IOC, Olympics, Russia
  • Catching Up With: NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel

    NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel, shown in 2013 accepting the Sports Business Award for "Best In Sports Media"
    NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel has been working on the Olympics since the early 1990s. He oversees and manages all aspects of NBC’s Olympic operation and works closely with the International Olympic Committee and Olympic organizers. He sat down with SBJ’s Tripp Mickle to talk about his impressions of the Sochi Games and the health of NBC’s Olympic business.

    You were dealing with logistics and security coming here. How did preparing for Sochi compare to past Olympics?
    ZENKEL: Not that differently because there’s always some set of issues as host committees and host cities prepare. In terms of the build-out, their venues were all done early. You go to some Olympic cities and the venues are late. They didn’t have one venue other than the main stadium that was behind. Hotels? Hotels were being finished late. But I can’t tell you an Olympics when we haven’t had late hotels. Security is not new.

    But the Volgograd bombing prior to the Olympics had to change things somewhat, right?
    ZENKEL: Yes, but I can’t tell you that Athens was radically different. There was a tremendous discussion about security fears going in there. Salt Lake City — different country, but plenty of discussion there. And everything we were hearing and everything we were seeing suggested that the Russians were going to overlay this place with a tremendous security force, and in every respect, that’s what’s happened, and there are elements of what they’re doing that we’ve never seen before.

    Do any shortcomings come to mind?
    ZENKEL: No. Right now, no. I can’t tell you an area that the organizing committee’s actions have left us with some kind of disadvantage. The facility is functioning beautiful. Logistically, this thing is being run like a clock. What’s going on at the venues is great. We could use a drop of 10 degrees at the mountains, but they’ve saved enough snow.

    You’re a fan of the two clusters of venues they’ve built here: one in the mountains and one on the coast. How will that affect future Olympics?
    ZENKEL: My hope is that it’s an element that’s evaluated as they move Olympics to other cities. It’s just a matter of looking at how efficient the structure is for athletes and spectators and media.

    This is the first one of four Olympics that you paid $4.4 billion for and it’s profitable. Do you have any sense of how the next three Olympics will go?
    ZENKEL: We’re optimistic. The Olympics seems to have great relevance. It always has but we see growth, and growth doesn’t exist in most anywhere now (on TV). There’s nothing to suggest this isn’t going to continue. There seems to be a real love for the Olympics.

    What has changed since the 2006 Torino Games when NBC lost in the ratings to “American Idol?”
    ZENKEL: Our ratings weren’t what we projected or hoped for then. There were some anticipated successes with the U.S. team — Bode (Miller). Certainly there was a feeling that the Olympics somehow took a step back. What’s different today? I don’t know. The world does shift. This notion of gathering the world and gathering around the U.S. team is something people really appreciate.

    How do you feel about Rio 2016?
    ZENKEL: I’m very excited about it. It’s hard to imagine a more exciting location. Beautiful. Interesting. But everybody knows they have problems. It’s a Summer Olympics, so it’s sprawling. It covers that whole city. It straddles the coast. But the people that are running the committee are really savvy. They know they have their work cut out for them and know they have to work hard. They’ll get there.

    Tags: NBC, Olympics
  • Samsung’s Sochi-focused WOW app producing big results

    Samsung's WOW app
    More than 400,000 people around the world have downloaded Samsung’s Olympic WOW app for the Sochi Games.

    The app is the first Olympic application the longtime global Olympic sponsor has made for Android phones, and it’s attracting more than 145,000 visitors per day.

    “Our vision for the Sochi Games was to make it the most social Olympic Games,” said Sheri Kim, Samsung spokeswoman. “This WOW (app) was very much a part of that smart Olympic Games initiative. We wanted people to capture and share their experience through our phone and the public Wow app.”

    The app is the result of a year-long effort by a team of five engineers. It includes elements that have never been available in an application for an Olympics before, such as an aggregation for cheers between separate countries competing in a single sport, push notifications on medal results, rules of winter sports, and a Gametracker feature for curling and other sports.

    The app was developed in seven different languages, and since the Olympics began, it’s had more than 9 million interactions. The bulk of those have taken place in the U.S., Canada and Russia.
    Samsung Says WOW
    Total number of WOW app downloads globally: More than 400,000
    Total number of visitors per day globally: More than 145,000
    Total number of transactions per day globally: More than 9 million
    Country with the most downloads: 1) U.S.; 2) Canada; 3) Russia
    Sport with the most cheers through WOW: 1) Snowboard; 2) Speedskating; 3) Biathlon

    “It was very difficult (to make it in so many languages),” said Shawn Sanghyo Jung, Samsung’s senior manager, new business development group, who led the app development team. “But Samsung is a worldwide company. We have an affiliate in every country. We asked them to review it in French and Spanish and Russian.”

    Samsung has made an app for every Olympics since the 2004 Athens Games when it made an app for Palm phones. But those apps historically were only available to members of the Olympic family, such as IOC members and sports federation officials. This is the second consumer-facing app they have developed. (The first was made for Vancouver.) But it is the first they have offered in Google’s app store.

    “We wanted to create a community,” Jung said. “There was many people in the world and many people in Sochi. We wanted to communicate between Sochi people and worldwide people. They share emotion. They share information in here worldwide.”

    Samsung opted to only develop the app for phones, like its own, that use Google’s Android operating system in Sochi. It is not offering it on Apple’s iOS system, but Jung said they may consider that next time.

    The company hasn’t committed to develop an app for the 2016 Rio Games yet, and Jung acknowledged that developing an app for 28 sports — more than double the number that participate in a Winter Games — would be daunting, but he still hopes they do it. He got excited at the idea of developing a Gametracker-like illustration for swimming.

    “We can make swimming lanes, like animation, so we can show the intermediate result in each point — 50 meters and 100 meters,” Jung said. “We can move the athletes at each point, like real.”

    Tags: Samsung, Olympics
  • BMW engineering pushes U.S. bobsled team to the top

    BMW has designed the U.S. team's bobsleds for Sochi.
    GETTY IMAGES
    The U.S. men’s bobsled team hasn’t won a gold medal in the two-man competition in more than 80 years, but with some help from sponsor BMW, they’re expected to be in contention in Sochi when the event gets under way Sunday.

    BMW has pulled off one of the most effective sponsor integrations at the Sochi Winter Games. Its North American design group, which is based in California, moved the center of gravity in the U.S. sleds, making them more snug and more aerodynamic, as well as personalized the steering for driver Steve Holcomb.

    “If you look at our sled, it’s radically different than other sleds,” said Holcomb, who won gold in the four-man bobsled at the Vancouver Games. “We have a lot of eyeballs on us.”

    The new sled has been faster than what the U.S. team was driving before. It helped the team win the first World Championship in two-man bobsled in U.S. history last year.

    Holcomb has added some mystery to the bobsled, covering it up on the way to the event, and that mystery combined with the U.S. team’s success has given BMW’s sponsorship of Team USA and USA Bobsled great exposure.

    Coming into the Olympics, BMW garnered coverage of its work on CBS and ABC’s morning shows and in national newspapers (The New York Times) and magazines (Outside, Popular Mechanics).

    “It has exceeded my expectations,” said Trudy Hardy, BMW North America’s vice president of marketing. “People can really grab onto this one. They get it. It’s easy to understand: ‘Of course BMW can make a fast sled.’”

    The interest in BMW’s work was so strong and the story of its design team’s efforts to overhaul the sled so compelling that BMW made it the focal point of its Winter Games activation. It developed a 22-minute documentary, “Driving on Ice,” that tells the story of its collaboration with USA Bobsled.

    “We wanted to make sure the world knew our story of why we decided to do this,” Hardy said. “It’s something you can’t tell in 30 seconds. There was such a rich story that it needed longer-form content.”

    The video, which BMW developed with its agency Universal McCann, aired on NBC on Jan. 15 and drew 1.1 million viewers. NBC also posted it on NBCOlympics.com and its website for on-demand viewing. BMW dealers across the U.S. are showing it on TVs in their waiting area during the Games.

    Bobsled is a bit like NASCAR — a proving ground where auto manufacturers can showcase their technological expertise. In Sochi, BMW will be going head-to-head with Ferrari, which is helping the Italians; McLaren, which is helping the Brits; and Audi, which is supporting the Germans.

    But the German automaker believes in the sled it made for Team USA so much that it developed a 30-second spot around it that’s running on NBC during the Sochi Games. It also is promoting the launch of several new cars, including a new BMW X5 and M235.

    BMW credited its promotions around Team USA during the London Games with helping sell more than 6,000 new cars. Hardy said she expects Sochi marketing around the bobsled to offer another bump in sales.

     “It’s tracking at a better pace because it’s better connected to our product launches, which makes the dealers happy,” Hardy said.

    Tags: BMW Inc., Olympics
  • SBJ Podcast: Tom Shepard of 21 Marketing

    Former Visa marketer and current 21 Marketing partner Tom Shepherd (left) and SBJ's Tripp Mickle
    SBJ Olympics writer Tripp Mickle and Tom Shepard, former head of Visa's sponsorship program and current partner at 21 Marketing, discuss what the Sochi Games are like, how they have differed from other Olympics, how sponsors are treating them and who's doing well on the ground. Among the highlights:

    "You're seeing a more selective approach here in Sochi to sponsor involvement off-site."

    "By the time you get to the Games, in essence, your job should be done. You should have realized the true benefit from the association with the Olympic marks in the years leading up to being on-site and then a halo effect after as long as you can maintain it."

    "I've seen a little bit of a lack of cultural sensitivity from a couple of the partners. That's one of the things that sponsors need to do their homework on."

    Tags: Olympics, Visa, Russia, SBJSBD Podcast
  • NBC still up big from Turin, but getting further away from Vancouver

    NBC’s average prime-time rating for the Sochi Games remains strong, but the figure is trending further away from comparable coverage in 2010 from Vancouver.

    The network is averaging a 13.9 rating through Thursday’s tape-delayed coverage, down 6 percent from a 14.8 rating for live coverage during the same period in 2010. However, Sochi is up 12 percent from a 12.4 rating seen during the 2006 Turin Games. Sochi also has topped Turin on each comparable night of coverage.

    Thursday night’s coverage — which featured gold-medal finals for men’s slopestyle skiing and women’s speedskating (1,000 meters), as well as competition in men’s figure skating (short program) and women’s skeleton — averaged a 13.4 rating and 22.9 million viewers. Those figures are a double-digit increase from the same night in 2006, but down from 2010.

    Tags: NBC, Olympics
  • U.S. hockey win helps propel NBCSN to another viewership record

    NBC Sports Network on Thursday set another viewership milestone for the channel, fueled by the U.S. men’s hockey team’s first game from Sochi.

    Coverage from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET averaged 1.4 million viewers, which is the network’s best-ever weekday figure in that window. Coverage on Thursday also featured men’s figure skating.

    Tags: NBC, Olympics
  • Peacock becomes a night owl: Late NBC Olympic window best since ’92

    A pleasant surprise to NBC has been late-night coverage, which usually begins closer to midnight on the East Coast.

    NBC has averaged 6.9 million viewers for those windows (six telecasts), marking the best late-night figure in 22 years, dating back to the 1992 Albertville Games. The late-night average for Sochi is also up big from Vancouver (up 38 percent) and Turin (up 35 percent).

    Tags: NBC, Olympics
  • IOC nixes projection of sponsor logos on outside of arenas

    The IOC this week asked Sochi 2014 organizers to stop projecting images of Coca-Cola, Aeroflot and other sponsors on the LED-lit exterior of the Bolshoy and Shayba arenas.

    In a world of rampant commercialism, the IOC prides itself on clean venues that are free of signage. The IOC’s marketing team initially was comfortable with the logos because they appeared outside the venues, but it later decided that they were in camera-visible positions.

    “The projection of sponsor logos was one of the things in development (from us to) add to recognition of sponsors,” said Timo Lumme, the IOC’s director of TV and marketing services. “The issue on that specific execution was that it was in the sightline of the broadcast tower, which didn’t work because we can’t have broadcasters showing commercial logos.”

    Lumme said the IOC doesn’t consider the Olympic Park to be a “clean venue” and pointed to Coca-Cola’s branding at concession stands, Visa’s branding at the Olympic Megastore and showcase pavilions as examples of acceptable commercialism.

    “We’re looking at other feasible ideas of increasing the appropriate visibility and recognition of partners,” Lumme said.

    AIPS (Association Intenrationale de la Presse Sportive) first reported the logos.

    Tags: IOC, Coca-Cola, Olympics, Russia
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