• SBJ Podcast: SI's Richard Deitsch assesses Sochi, NBC

    SBJ Olympics writer Tripp Mickle and Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch assess the first week of the Sochi Games and how they're performing on NBC. Among the highlights:
    Tripp Mickle (left) and Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch, shown during the 2012 London Olympics

    "You bid on the Games, and one of the promises you make is that everything is going to be ready when the world arrives. … Seems like to me they needed one more week to get ready."

    "Big event television is still one of the last things that guarantees ratings. … So the ratings don't surprise me at all. They're not going to beat London or Vancouver because of the time difference."

    Tags: NBC, Olympics, Sports Illustrated, SBJSBD Podcast
  • Catching Up With: John Lewicki of McDonald's

    McDonald's executive John Lewicki
    John Lewicki has been working on the Olympics for McDonald’s since 1996. As head of global alliance for the company, he first visited Sochi a year ago. The sight of palm trees at a Winter Olympic host city surprised him. He has visited several times since then, and he spoke to Tripp Mickle at a playground McDonald’s built near the Black Sea in Adler about how Sochi has evolved and how the Olympics are going.

    How much has changed in the year since you visited?
    LEWICKI: We had done a couple of site checks. I have a memory of where they were, but I would not know how to get there now because of all the different construction. We went to the Radisson Blu and ended up on a dirt road. I’ve passed it twice now and didn’t recognize it as the same road because that infrastructure is completely different. So what was a construction site to what it is now, it’s just vastly different.

    How would you describe the sponsor experience so far?
    LEWICKI: I’m not necessarily a proponent of a Winter (Olympic) Park, but because they didn’t have anything here, they put everything. The Park’s amazing. What can you say? It’s a construction masterpiece. Having the ability to walk between venues when you have tickets is just incredible.

    Why wouldn’t you be a proponent of that at future Olympics?
    LEWICKI: I’m not sure what they’ll do with it afterward. There’s always a concern, and it’s a rap on the Olympics, that these venues become an albatross. I don’t think that’s a good legacy, so you want to make sure that you build something sustainable. People are always complaining, “They built this thing and the country’s in debt because of it.” That’s not a good thing.

    Everyone in the industry is consuming press reports on hotel problems and other issues. Are journalists painting a fair portrait of the experience here?
    LEWICKI: There are problems. There’s stuff that’s not finished. I guess the silver lining is that everyone’s inconvenienced, everyone who’s accommodated has some form of an issue. It’s universal challenges. It’s not perfect, but it’s overshadowed by the spectacular nature of the (Olympic) Park. If you’re going to have deficiencies, it’s best to get the venues done. It would have been nice to have everything done, but the venues are spectacular, and it’s about the Olympians having a great place to perform.

    What competition are you looking forward to?
    LEWICKI: I love international hockey, especially with these guys. The great players play in the NHL but play on different teams, and to see them play for their country is really exciting. It’s a wide-open game, a larger rink. To see the skill these guys have and the women have is incredible to watch.

    Tags: Olympics, McDonalds
  • Early Sochi medalists make big jumps on Twitter

    Slopestyle gold-medalist Sage Kotsenburg
    After the first week of the Sochi Games, some of the biggest jumps in terms of number of Twitter followers were seen by gold-medalist snowboarders Sage Kotsenburg and Jamie Anderson. The combination of winning early events and great media coverage saw them both in the top five of most-added followers for American athletes.

    Among other popular athletes on Twitter, snowboarder Shaun White added more than 89,000 followers to see his dominance in social media continue even as he failed to medal. Figure skaters Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner also saw large jumps in popularity to round out the top five (see chart, below) and could see more followers with individual event success this coming week.

    On the international front, outspoken Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris is enjoying a massive popularity bump on Twitter, adding more than 100,000 followers after winning the bronze in slopestyle. Popular British snowboarder Jenny Jones saw the second-most additions with more than 46,000 after also bringing home a medal.

        Feb. 5 Feb. 13  
    Top 5 Most Additions Twitter Handle Twitter Followers Twitter Followers ADDITIONS
    Shaun White @shaun_white 1,258,623 1,348,363 89,740
    Sage Kotsenburg @sagekotsenburg 7,425 61,846 54,421
    Gracie Gold @GraceEGold 25,286 57,185 31,899
    Jamie Anderson @Jme_Anderson 11,490 43,036 31,546
    Ashley Wagner @AshWagner2010 29,714 56,141 26,427
     
    Figure Skating
    Gracie Gold @GraceEGold 25,286 57,185 31,899
    Ashley Wagner @AshWagner2010 29,714 56,141 26,427
    Meryl Davis @Meryl_Davis 20,873 34,497 13,624
    Charlie White @CharlieaWhite 18,435 30,196 11,761
    Charlie White @CharlieaWhite 18,435 30,196 11,761
    Jason Brown @jasonbskates 10,013 16,157 6,144
    Jeremy Abbott @jeremyabbottpcf 26,240 29,784 3,544
    Maia Shibutani @MaiaShibutani 12,681 15,869 3,188
    Alex Shibutani @AlexShibutani 13,651 16,513 2,862
     
    Skiing
    Julia Mancuso @JuliaMancuso 54,016 66,557 12,541
    Gus Kensworthy @guskenworthy 13,606 25,816 12,210
    Nick Goepper @NickGoepper 11,164 21,624 10,460
    Bode Miller @MillerBode 37,407 47,834 10,427
    Bobby Brown @Bobby_Brown1 33,189 38,327 5,138
    Ted Ligety @tedligety 42,807 46,607 3,800
    Mikaela Shiffrin @MikaelaShiffrin 21,587 24,126 2,539
    Torin Yater-Wallace @TorinWallace 13,654 15,949 2,295
    Kikkan Randall @kikkanimal 11,165 12,329 1,164
     
    Speedskating
    Shani Davis @ShaniDavis 14,681 20,894 6,213
    JR Celski @jrcelski 20,828 26,936 6,108
    Lauren Cholewinski @LMCHOLEWINSKI 17,896 18,167 271
     
    Snowboarding
    Shaun White @shaun_white 1,258,623 1,348,363 89,740
    Sage Kotsenburg @sagekotsenburg 7,425 61,846 54,421
    Jamie Anderson @Jme_Anderson 11,490 43,036 31,546
    Kaitlyn Farrington @KaitlynFarr 2,370 10,831 8,461
    Hannah Teter @hannahteter 26,980 34,289 7,309
    Danny Davis @theDDeadshow 18,064 23,738 5,674
    Kelly Clark @Kellyclarkfdn 14,469 19,310 4,841
    Greg Bretz @gregbretzz 10,100 12,382 2,282
    Scotty Lago @scottylago 42,002 44,100 2,098
     
    Bobsled
    Johnny Quinn @JohnnyQuinnUSA 14,073 25,673 11,600
    Lolo Jones @lolojones 378,543 385,149 6,606
    Dallas Robinson @DRobUSA 9,445 11,874 2,429
    Steven Holcomb @StevenHolcomb 13,112 13,880 768
     
    Women's Hockey
    Hillary Knight @Hilary_Knight 14,785 23,657 8,872

    Tags: Twitter, Media, Olympics
  • Instagram, snowboarder McMorris lead in social media engagement

    Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris has led the way in terms of new followers and fan interactions.
    GETTY IMAGES
    For the Sochi Olympics, Instagram is the leading social network when counting fan interactions, with 46.6 percent of all Olympic activity happening on the site, according to a report by Hookit. Comparatively, Facebook is at 36.8 percent of interactions and Twitter at 16.6 percent of the more than 6 million fan interactions counted.

    Hookit tracked 592 athletes on social media in the first week, and they combined to have more than 21 million fans over the three main social networks. In contrast to the engagement numbers, almost 45 percent of fans are on Twitter, 40.9 percent on Facebook and 14.3 percent are on Instagram.

    A deeper look into social media data compiled by Hookit during the first week of the Sochi Games shows that Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris has been the most popular with new followers and fan interactions. McMorris, a bronze-medal winner in slopestyle, had the most-liked photo on Instagram and four of the top five.


    TOP 10 ATHLETES BY TOTAL FAN INTERACTIONS

    1. Mark McMorris (Canada) — 707,691 interactions
    2. Shaun White (U.S.) — 535,587
    3. Sven Kramer (Netherlands) — 353,169
    4. Julia Mancuso (U.S.) — 293,209
    5. Sage Kotsenburg (U.S.) — 288,230
    6. Jamie Anderson (U.S.) — 274,009
    7. Silje Norendal (Norway) — 238,311
    8. Marcel Hirscher (Austria) — 237,725
    9. Justine Dufour-Lapointe (Canada) — 207,408
    10. Stale Sandbech (Norway) — 195,619

    Tags: Media, Olympics, Facebook, Twitter
  • Japanese company Airweave signs USOC sponsorship

    USOC CEO Scott Blackmun (left) and Airweave CEO Motokuni Takaoka
    The U.S. Olympic Committee on Wednesday announced its first sponsorship in the mattress category with Airweave, a Japanese company that makes bedding toppers.

    Terms of the deal were not available, but Airweave is considered an official sponsor, and those deals are usually valued in the mid-six figures annually. Under the terms of the deal, Airweave is providing mattress toppers to Team USA athletes in Sochi and also will provide them in Rio in 2016.

    “Their business is not established in the U.S., but they want to aggressively grow the business and the brand,” said Lisa Baird, USOC chief marketer. “In addition to financial benefits, this is a sponsorship that offers great benefits to our athletes. They’re going to really help us with some (value in kind).”

    Airweave CEO Motokuni Takaoka appeared at USA House in Sochi to announce the sponsorship Wednesday. The company also has sponsorships with several other national Olympic committees, including Austria, France, Germany, Switzerland and Japan.

    To assist in marketing its sponsorship of Team USA, Airweave signed endorsement deals with figure skater Gracie Gold and ice dancer Charlie White. The company estimates that it is providing 1,000 athletes in Sochi with mattress toppers during the Sochi Games.

    Airweave launched in the U.S. last month. Its mattress tops use resin fibers that are woven together. It claims that the product’s breathability helps moisture generated by the body during sleep escape.

    Michael O’Conor, USOC senior director of business development, negotiated the deal.

    Baird said that the USOC currently is focused on servicing its existing partners and renewing them for the 2018 and 2020 Olympics.

    “A lot of that is going to rest on how well we fulfill their expectations,” Baird said. “That’s where I have our team focused.”

    Tags: Japan, USOC, Olympics
  • Sochi Games help McDonald’s expand business in Russia

    The Sochi Games jump-started McDonald’s business in southern Russia, leading to the construction of five restaurants in the Sochi region and allowing it to add smoothies, parfaits and wraps to its menu.

    “Because of the Olympics, we built them,” said Khamzat Khasbulatov, CEO of McDonald’s Russia. “They’ve been so popular and packed.”

    John Lewicki, McDonald’s head of global alliances, added: “We’ve been in Russia for 24 years, but it’s still a great growth market for us. (The Olympics) helped our business tremendously. The support of the organizing committee and the government, the way it’s set up, will help our business a lot more. It’s a great generator for us.”

    McDonald’s built two restaurants in the Olympic Park — one for athletes and one for journalists. It is serving 6,000 customers a day at those two locations.

    McDonald's Russia
    The first McDonald’s opens in Moscow in 1990
    415 McDonald’s restaurants operate in more than 100 Russian cities
    37 restaurants in Russia rank among McDonald’s global top 100 in sales
    1 million customers a day eat at a McDonald’s restaurant in Russia
    36,000 people work for McDonald’s in Russia
    Because it was building those restaurants as part of its sponsorship commitment, McDonald’s expanded its supply chain in Russia to offer menu items it serves in other parts of the world. It added smoothies, parfaits and grilled chicken wraps to the menu. The parfaits had to pass Russian regulations for yogurt and be made from local products. The company set up the supply chain for those items, secured government approval and began serving them last October.

    Khasbulatov said the new items will be available at McDonald’s locations around the country in the future, which will help boost national sales as well as choices for customers.

    “Providing variety is still one of our biggest business drivers,” Khasbulatov said.

    The United Kingdon and Russia are McDonald’s two biggest European markets. The company has 415 restaurants in Russia, and 37 of those rank among the top 100 in global sales for the company. It plans to open more than 45 restaurants in Russia annually in the coming years.

    “We have ambitious growth plans over the next four years,” Lewicki said. “The World Cup is coming here (in 2018) and that will help as well. (Sports) gives us a great opportunity to talk to consumers and explain our brand in a way that here, where Russian citizens are very supportive of the Olympics and the World Cup, offers a great opportunity to develop our business.”

    McDonald's built a playground near the Olympic Village as part of the legacy the company leaves in Olympic cities.
    Khasbulatov and Lewicki were speaking at a playground McDonald’s built in Adler near one of its new restaurants. The playground is one of the legacies the company has been leaving in Olympic cities ever since the Vancouver Games. It’s become the physical embodiment of the company’s effort to promote and encourage kids to be active.

    In addition to that, McDonald’s is running its “Champions of Play” program at the Sochi Games. It will bring 300 kids selected by schools across Russia to the Olympics. It also will host the winner of a youth hockey tournament it sponsored, and it is in the process of arranging a time for the kids to skate and play on one of the two hockey rinks built for the Olympics.

    The company first began providing behind-the-scenes access to children it brought to the London Games. Those kids were able to go to the archery venue at Lord’s Cricket Ground and meet Olympic archers.

    “We’re working with the IOC to continue doing that,” Lewicki said.

    Tags: Russia, Olympics, McDonalds
  • Shaun White boosts NBC on Tuesday, moves net close to 2010 average

    Despite Shaun White missing out on a medal in the snowboard halfpipe on Tuesday, his appearance during NBC’s prime-time coverage gave the network a big boost over the same nights during both the 2010 Vancouver and 2006 Turin Games.

    NBC earned a 13.7 fast-national rating and 23.7 million viewers from 8-11:03 p.m. ET on Tuesday, up 12 percent and 17 percent, respectively, from the same night in 2010. Along with coverage of White, NBC also aired gold-medal finals for women’s luge singles and women’s ski jumping, as well as the figure skating pairs’ short program.

    Coverage on Tuesday also was up 21 percent and 29 percent, respectively, from an 11.3 rating and 18.4 million viewers for the same night during Turin in 2006.

    Tuesday night also helped NBC’s five-night average draw close to the average seen during Vancouver. The network is averaging a 14.4 rating in prime time, just short of the 14.5 at the same point in 2010, and up 13 percent from the 12.7 average rating seen in 2006.

    Tags: NBC, Olympics
  • Twin Cities leads close ratings race for top Olympic market

    It has been a neck-and-neck race between the Minneapolis-St. Paul and Salt Lake City markets as to who wins the race for highest-rated market during NBC’s prime-time Olympic coverage.

    Through five nights, the Twin Cities have won three times, with Salt Lake City winning twice. Minneapolis-St. Paul is averaging a 22.5 local rating, while Salt Lake City has a 22.3 rating. Rounding out the top five markets are Denver (20.2), Milwaukee (19.5) and Ft. Myers-Naples (18.6).

    Tags: Olympics, Media
  • NBC Sports Net continues record-setting daytime audience performance

    NBC Sports Network continued its strong performance during the Sochi Games with another record daytime audience. Coverage on Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. averaged 1.1 million viewers, marking a record for the network during that time period, topping the mark set Monday.

    NBC Sports Net also had set records during Sunday’s and Saturday’s coverage.

    Tags: NBC, Olympics
  • Catching Up With: Dermot Boden, Citi's chief brand officer

    Citi Chief Brand Officer Dermot Boden
    SHANA WITTENWYLER PHOTO
    Citi Chief Brand Officer Dermot Boden spearheaded the company’s renewal of its sponsorship with the U.S. Olympic Committee following the London Games. The partnership, he believes, helps strengthen Citi’s brand message about helping people on their journey from ambition to achievement.
        
    This week he spoke with SBJ staff writer Tripp Mickle in Sochi’s Olympic Park about some of the trends he’s seen in marketing for the Sochi Games.

    Sponsors like Citi, which is donating $500,000 to amateur sports organizations selected by the athletes it endorses, increasingly put charity at the heart of their Olympic marketing. Is this a trend we can expect to see beyond the Olympics?

    BODEN: Sponsors are getting more thoughtful. From our point of view it’s a matter of realizing if you want to build something, hopefully existing companies and new clients as well, you must demonstrate something that’s not just advertising. You have to demonstrate that they’re part of the brand, not just communicate your message. Experience our message. That’s why we tried to make the program as interactive as we have. It has to be right for the brand, and contributing funds to organizations that are part of the community makes sense for us as a brand. I hope we see more brands do it because it’s the right thing.

    There was a tweet Chobani put out last week of its yogurts stacked in the colors of the rainbow. It was promoting diversity and appeared to be attacking Russia’s anti-gay law. How does a marketer decide if taking a marketing stance like that is right?

    BODEN: I can’t speak for other people. I can only speak for ourselves. For us diversity is a critical element of the brand, of our ethics and our beliefs. We support the IOC and USOC in their efforts to have as diverse an atmosphere as possible.

    Every marketing organization has to address it as they think they should and whatever they think they need to do. Do I think it’s right? I can’t be a judge of what’s right or wrong for them. From our point of view, we’re clear about diversity. We are a brand for everybody, period.

    There was an article about some Olympic sponsors developing back-up advertising in case there was a security issue here or some other problem. Did you think about developing back-up marketing materials?

    BODEN: Do we think about it? Yes. Did we develop specific activation (back-up) plans? Not at this stage. It takes a lot to get our activations in place to be successful. You have to enter this realistic but optimistic we’re going to have a successful Games. Do we have back-up plans? Of course we have communication plans if something unexpected happens. There’s been so much attention on these Games that I’m not terribly worried. The security has been intense. It’s been at times painful, and I think it’s going to be fine here.

    McDonald’s put up a social media campaign that was “hijacked” by gay rights advocates. Was social-media hijacking on your radar before this Olympics?

    BODEN: It probably wasn’t for me. Social media is moving so fast and you’re learning so quickly. It’s hard to think about all the problems you have to address. You do your best to be smart and sharp. It’s something else to be aware of for the future.

    What’s your experience so far here in Sochi?

    BODEN: The first thing that hit me is I have spent a ridiculous amount (unnecessarily) on clothing. It’s 60 degrees, it’s just so warm. We were talking to the NBC guys and they said the weather might be warmer than Rio. The backdrop here is phenomenal. The buildings are impressive. It’s lovely to see a country with such pride for the Games hosting. Our athletes are doing well so far.

    Is there an event you’re excited about?

    BODEN: I enjoy luge and am interested to see how that goes. I’m going to watch the hockey team with (Citi athlete) Julie Chu. I’d like them to do well and her to do well. I’ll be coming back for the Paralympics as well. I’m thrilled NBC is making an effort to cover it.

    Tags: Citibank, Olympics
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