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February 5, 2014 09:57 AM
In agreeing to send its players to the 2014 Winter Olympics, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association were able to obtain unprecedented access in Sochi for their own media platforms — NHL Network, NHL.com and NHLPA.com — along with an agreement to coordinate key public relations efforts.
The NHL at previous Olympics has been frustrated by its lack of access to its own players. Commissioner Gary Bettman has publicly questioned the benefit of shutting down the league for more than two weeks every four years for the Olympics compared to any promotional value gained.
The NHL could not present content from Vancouver venues, but that changes in Sochi thanks to new agreements.
Photo by:GETTY IMAGES
Among the gains is a daily, 30-minute show from Sochi that will air on NHL Network. “NHL Tonight: Sochi Edition,” a wrap-up of the day’s events from the hockey tournament with highlights, interviews and analysis, will air at 3 p.m. ET and loop until 8 p.m. ET. The show, hosted by the network’s Kathryn Tappen, will be produced from an NBC set location at the Olympics.
NHL Network also was granted access to hockey players for live and taped interviews from the NBC in-arena set locations at this year’s Olympics and the mixed media zone, the press area the athletes walk through after fulfilling any interview requests with broadcast rights holders after their competition.
NBC, which gave its consent to the NHL for the increased activity of NHL Network, is the U.S. broadcast rights holder of the NHL and, of course, the Olympics. NHL rights holder CBC is the IOC’s rights holder for Canada.
The IOC traditionally has allowed only broadcast rights holders to bring cameras into Olympic venues and to conduct interviews with athletes. As a result, at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, NHL Network could not present any content from Olympic venues. The same held true for NBA TV in London at the 2012 Summer Olympics, where reporter David Aldridge’s news bulletins were broadcast from locations outside of Olympic venues.
This will be the fifth consecutive Winter Games to feature NHL players, dating to Nagano in 1998. There are currently 147 NHL players on rosters for this year’s Olympics, including at least one player on each of the 12 national teams.
In addition to the planned daily show, the NHL and NHLPA gained rights to the following from their agreements with the IOC and IIHF:
n NHL.com will be on-site to cover all NHL players in the Olympics and will present previews and recaps of every game, a daily digest of each NHL player’s performance, and other features.
n NHL digital platforms will provide links to video and additional Olympic content available via NBC and CBC sites.
n The league and NHLPA will receive 12 media credentials that allow access to the Olympic Broadcast Center, and NHL.com and NHLPA.com will have a total of four seats in the main press box at all hockey games.
n All releases and statements related to the hockey tournament, including those pertaining to any on-ice and off-ice issues that could arise, will come from the coordinated efforts of the IIHF, NHL and NHLPA.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly negotiated with the IOC and IIHF in seeking the increased access, with consultation on access requirements from Jamey Horan, the league’s vice president of player development and event communications.
NHL COO John Collins; Bob Chesterman, NHL senior vice president of programming and production; and NHL Network executive producer Mark Preisler struck agreements with NBC so NHL Network could produce the daily program and use studio space.
“There have been stringent rules in place in the past, so as a programmer, it’s exciting to be able to provide this level of reporting from the Olympics on NHL Network,” Chesterman said. “We wanted to serve our fans with the best coverage possible of our players, so we’re very happy with how the agreement turned out.”
Staff writer Tripp Mickle contributed to this report.
February 5, 2014 09:56 AM
A former competitive mogul skier, Michael Spencer became an agent just as skiers began migrating from the mountain to the terrain park. He landed his first freeskiing client, Simon Dumont, in 2003, and he’s been working with freeskiing athletes ever since. In 2008, he became a co-founder of the Association of Freeskiing Professionals, which played an integral role in getting the sport onto the Olympic program. Freeskiing will make its debut with halfpipe and slopestyle competitions at the Sochi Games, and Spencer, an executive with Wasserman Media Group, will be there.“
There will be a large audience watching this. The question is: How do you capture that audience afterward? My thought is that our group as a whole really needs to bond together and create new opportunities to tell the story and continue to engage fans. How we do that.”
Photo:COURTESY OF MICHAEL SPENCER
How to measure that?: If an American wins halfpipe or slopestyle, we’ll be able to tell based on the corporate demand and media demand afterward.
How is that demand in advance of the Games?: The media demand is there, without a doubt. USA Today and others have taken an interest in sending writers to [freeskiing’s] U.S. Grand Prix events. The corporate demand hasn’t been as good as I thought it would be, but the corporate demand for freeskiers was already great. ... I thought [freeskiers] might be bombarded with opportunities because it’s a new sport and it’s skiing, but I’ve heard they had so many other sponsors that [new sponsors] were afraid they wouldn’t have access to those athletes.
On Tanner Hall, Simon Dumont and the Olympics: The sport of halfpipe was elevated by Tanner (age 30) and Simon (27), no question. The days of turning on X Games and watching them go head to head, people loved that. ... Tanner [who opted not to compete in Sochi] will be missed, but Simon’s still in a good spot to be there. He started at 14 and has been at every X Games since ski superpipe was added. Hopefully, he can make it.
February 5, 2014 09:55 AM
The network is reserving an undetermined number of ad units for advertisers in case it does not hit ratings guarantees during the Sochi Games. If ratings fall short of those guarantees, NBC would need to have a certain number of spots available as make-goods. Olympic networks typically hold ad spots back in this manner, but in recent years NBC has not had to halt ad sales so far before the Games start.
At NBC Sports’ press event (from left): Bob Costas, Steve Burke, Mark Lazarus, Gary Zenkel.
Photo by:HEIDI GUTMAN / NBC
Olympics reporter Tripp Mickle and media writer John Ourand discuss NBC's decision to halt Olympic ad sales and its prospects for the Sochi Games.
“We’re doing quite well,” Lazarus said. “Marketers and sponsors are buying one of the very few events that gather large numbers across all demographics in front of their televisions.”
It’s not known how much inventory NBC is holding back. NBC’s ratings guarantee has not been made public. Sources say the guaranteed number generally is around 10 percent below what they had been getting in past Olympics. For the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver, NBC’s ratings guarantee for prime-time telecasts was a 14.0. During those Games, NBC pulled a 17.3 rating for the Opening Ceremony and a 13.8 average rating for its prime-time broadcasts.
This situation is unique to an event like the Olympics, which for Sochi spans 18 days, from Feb. 6-23. If, for example, the Opening Ceremony on Feb. 7 under-performs ratings-wise, NBC would still have 16 days left during the Games to offer make-goods to advertisers.
“It was a long conversation with NBC,” said Jeremy Carey, U.S. director for Optimum Sports, which counts Olympic advertisers McDonald’s, Visa and Chobani as clients. “It took some time, but we feel really good about where we netted out.”
One potential hiccup occurred last week when U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn pulled out of the Games because of a knee injury. Carey said he was concerned that the loss of a big star would negatively affect the ratings.
“She’s probably the most well-known star of the Games,” he said. “We’re confident another athlete will step up and fill that void.”
February 5, 2014 09:54 AM
The channel’s biggest distribution gain will come from Dish Network, sources said, which will move the channel from its America’s Top 250 tier to its more popular America’s Top 200 tier. Dish Network will make the move by Feb. 1.
NBC Sports Network also will see distribution gains from better placement on Cablevision and Suddenlink systems, among other distributors.
NBC Sports Network will be in 85 million homes by Feb. 1, NBC executives said last week. The most recent Nielsen estimate had the channel in 77.5 million homes as of the beginning of January.
Distributors pay around 35 cents per subscriber per month for the channel, according to figures from SNL Kagan.
Olympics reporter Tripp Mickle and media writer John Ourand discuss NBC's decision to halt Olympic ad sales and its prospects for the Sochi Games.
Historically, NBC has used its Olympics association to grow distribution and license fees for its cable channels. In the 1990s, USA Network, in particular, achieved full distribution thanks to deals made around the Olympics. USA is in 98 million homes and is scheduled to carry 43 hours of programming from Sochi.
NBC executives credit the Olympics for the current distribution push, adding that NBC Sports Network’s other sports properties also helped.
“It’s the power of the Olympics, along with what we’ve been doing with the NHL, along with NASCAR coming, along with EPL,” said Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Sports Group. “We’re finding our way. This has always been a multiyear game of patience with us for NBC Sports Network. We’re never where we want to be, but we’re making good progress.”
NBC Sports Network’s push to 85 million homes puts it closer to one of its competitors, Fox Sports 1, which is in 87.7 million homes. Both ESPN and ESPN2 are in close to 97 million homes.
February 5, 2014 09:53 AM
Nearly a year before the Sochi Games, U.S. Olympic Committee Chief Communications Officer Patrick Sandusky received a call from a reporter wanting to know what the USOC thought of a law winding its way through Russia’s parliament that would ban gay propaganda.
Sandusky, who was hearing of the law for the first time, declined to comment and released a statement in the following days saying the USOC opposed the law but was focused on supporting athletes. For the veteran public relations executive, media questions and activist pressure about the law has underscored a new reality about the Olympics.
Anti-gay legislation in Russia has drawn protests leading up to Sochi.
Photo by:GETTY IMAGES
“We assume there are going to be [communications] issues going into a Games,” Sandusky said. “There’s generally something we have to respond to. I don’t think anyone could have anticipated this would be it.”
That reality is changing the way sponsors prepare for an Olympics. Companies increasingly see their community and international relations groups work hand in hand with communications and sports marketing staff to respond to issues that arise, and more time, energy and money is devoted to anticipating and responding to everything from environmental to political activists.
“Over the course of seven years, which is the time an Olympic city has to prepare, they’re going to deal with almost every issue, from political to environmental,” said Ann Wool, partner and managing director at Ketchum Sports, which works with Olympic sponsors such as Procter & Gamble and Liberty Mutual. “Everything is going to bubble to the surface, and you’re going to encounter all of them. Preparations haven’t changed, but the bigger the Games have become the more likely an issue is to catch fire.”
Activism is no stranger to the Olympics. U.S. athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos protested from the medal stand in 1968.
Photo by:GETTY IMAGES
In the 1990s, that activism began to transition from the field of play and news pages to the world of sponsorship and marketing. Wool said environmental activists called for a boycott of the 1994 Lillehammer Games because of Norway’s whaling industry. But those early protests were muted.
That all changed when the International Olympic Committee awarded the 2008 Summer Games to Beijing. The IOC was criticized from the outset for awarding the Games to a country that was known for human rights abuses. That criticism only escalated in the years before the Olympics as activist groups criticized the IOC and sponsors for China’s role in violence in Darfur, a crackdown in Tibet and lax environmental regulations.
Groups like Mia Farrow’s Dream for Darfur garnered major attention and forced sponsors to respond to letters criticizing their support of the Beijing Games. Protesters also disrupted the international Olympic torch relay, wreaking so much havoc that the IOC decided it wouldn’t host another international relay.
Activists are able to sell the media on the parallels between what they’re advocating, like peace in Darfur, and the IOC’s own values, peace through sport, in ways they can’t with other global sporting events, such as FIFA’s World Cup or Formula One, which aren’t built on those same ideals. They also are able to pressure multinational corporations that espouse certain values.
“Certainly, politics, human rights and the Olympics have always been tied together,” said Minky Worden, Human Rights Watch’s director of global initiatives. “What is new, starting in 1985, the TOP sponsor program was developed. That was when there started to be a big corporate presence. … We’ve called for the sponsors to engage and use the power they manifestly have. … We say, ‘You’re paying for the Games. You have leverage with the IOC.’”
In 2008, activist groups criticized all Olympic sponsors for their support of the Beijing Games, but at times the issues can be direct and personal. No sponsor knows that better than IOC sponsor Dow Chemical.
Dow bought a company in 2001 that 17 years earlier had been responsible for a gas leak at an Indian pesticide plant that killed thousands of people and injured more than 500,000. Protesters called on London Olympic organizers to drop Dow as a sponsor. The episode undermined Dow’s Olympic activation plans.
“When I talked to other partners [before we signed our sponsorship], I was told this is a bit of a free platform, this Olympic world, for activists and others to tell their story,” George Hamilton, Dow vice president of Olympic operations, said last year during the London Games. “We expected that. I’ll be honest and tell you the level … in London was higher than we expected.”
Preparing for Sochi
The Sochi Games are only the latest in a string of Olympics to be preceded by controversy. The public relations crisis this time has centered on Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law, which bars public discussion of gay rights.
Companies have been more proactive in responding to criticism from activist groups than they were when criticism mounted before the Beijing Games. When Human Rights Watch mailed a letter this year outlining Russian rights violations to all 10 of the IOC’s sponsors, only two (Atos Origin and Visa) didn’t respond, and Coke, Dow and GE also met with the organization.
Coke then followed through on one of Human Rights Watch’s demands — that sponsors condemn Russia’s anti-gay legislation — by issuing a statement saying it does not “condone intolerance or discrimination of any kind.” Most of the sponsors said they raised the issue with the IOC and touted their own corporate policies of equality and diversity. Their letters also emphasized that they support the Olympics because they stand for those principles.
Dave Mingey, founder of the sports marketing agency GlideSlope and a former marketing executive at Johnson & Johnson, said that’s critical to preventing criticism from activist groups from undermining the value of a sponsorship.
Before the 2008 Beijing Games, protesters in San Francisco and elsewhere criticized China’s record on human rights.
Doing that isn’t easy. More than 80 percent of Russians support the law, but many people in Western countries oppose it. They have to find a way to speak to the opposition, which most agree with, while not alienating people in the host country.
“You have to be careful because Russia is a critically important market, as was China, so sponsors are trying to do the right thing but don’t want to be the ones leading the charge,” said one Olympic sponsorship executive.
The way sponsors are responding to criticism ahead of the Sochi Games is different from what they did in Beijing. In 2008, companies’ public relations teams managed most of the communication. Today, other departments are increasingly getting involved. For example, GE’s chief diversity officer and Procter & Gamble’s corporate responsibility officer wrote letters to Human Rights Watch.
Public relations experts said that pulling in corporate responsibility officers and diversity officers was always a part of company playbooks, but those individuals taking the lead on the Sochi-related focus on gay rights has meant they have needed to take more of a lead in communicating companies’ positions.
The changes also can be seen at public relations firms working in the Olympics. Edelman’s Matter Inc., which works with Olympic sponsors like Dow, GE, Kellogg’s, Citi and others, has built out its staff to have a group that’s focused on sports crisis communications. Those experts are embedded with client groups advising sponsors prior to the Games.
“It’s changed fundamentally how we look at it and counsel clients,” said Mary Scott, managing director of Matter. “Crisis has to be at the forefront of communications planning. It’s no longer something that gets dusted off if something happens.”
Ketchum’s Wool added, “There’s a bit of a blueprint now. The challenge now is on making the good news stand out.”
The faces of most good news for sponsors are the athletes at the Games, and the USOC meets with every Olympian headed to the Games to discuss PR issues. The meetings are part of the Olympic ambassador program that the USOC developed before the 2006 Torino Games. It devotes about 15 minutes in every two-hour meeting with groups of athletes to PR.
When it comes to the anti-gay legislation in Russia, the USOC has encouraged athletes to be open and say what they want.
“They should not feel pressured by us to say or not say something,” Sandusky said. “We’re a sports organization, and we’re focused on preparing the team. We’re not an advocacy organization.”
February 5, 2014 09:52 AM
NBC Olympics and Yahoo will partner to promote video highlights and live streamed video of the Sochi Games, ending years of competition and public sniping over what outlet drove the most traffic during an Olympic Games.
Tripp Mickle and Eric Fisher discuss the NBC-Yahoo Olympic deal, whether the two sides will be able to get along during the Sochi Games and whether the partnership will last past 2014.
Under the new deal, NBCOlympics.com and Yahoo will remain independent and continue to sell their own inventory, but link to each other’s stories and videos in order to boost each other’s traffic during the Sochi Games. Yahoo Sports and NBC Sports staff will contribute to Olympic news and digital segments that air on NBCOlympics.com, and NBC Olympics will integrate Yahoo Search, Flickr and Tumblr into its website during the Games.
“We have had a great year on the sports side,” said Rick Cordella, NBC Sports Digital’s senior vice president and general manager. “It makes all the sense in the world that we match the uniqueness of what Yahoo can do with the uniqueness of what NBC can do. It’s a great partnership that we hope to see manifest itself in later Olympics.”
For Yahoo, the partnership bolsters its existing Olympics coverage by allowing it to link directly to highlights and live video on NBCOlympics.com, a move expected to help Yahoo attract more visitors.
“This is a peanut-butter-and-jelly deal,” said Ken Fuchs, vice president global media and commerce at Yahoo. “It brings to our users the one thing we haven’t had [video] around the data and stories we tell. They can jump in and watch live and watch highlights in ways they couldn’t before. That’s a very unique thing for us.”
The partnership was approved by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus.
As early as February of this year, a full year before the start of the Sochi Games, NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel confirmed negotiations of a potential Olympics partnership. But as talks dragged on through the summer and fall without resolution, uncertainty grew over whether an agreement could be reached in time to deploy for Sochi. Last winter, Zenkel had said a decision would have needed to be made by the summer in order to execute properly. But as talks continued, that artificial deadline was extended.
Some NBC executives harbored reservations about working with Yahoo because the company had boasted in press releases during the four previous Olympics (2006-12) that it drove more traffic than NBCOlympics.com, particularly during the high-profile Beijing Summer Games of 2008.
NBC worked with MSN to boost traffic during the Beijing Games and partnered with YouTube in an effort to improve its digital reach during the 2012 London Games. But the company, which streamed all Olympic competition live for the first time in 2012, found that most of its 2 billion page views and 159 million video views came from NBCOlympics.com and not YouTube. As a result, it considered operating its site for the first time without partnering with a portal.
Cordella said NBC’s and Yahoo’s competition during years past wasn’t an issue in negotiations, particularly as the sports partnership grew during the course of this year. He added that he expects NBCOlympics.com and Yahoo will still compete to draw users to their own respective properties during the Sochi Games, but the hope is that making video available on both NBCOlympics.com and Yahoo will boost traffic for both sites.
“We’re doing this for our collective audience,” Cordella said. “The ultimate beneficiary is the consumer.”
Outside of the Olympics, the NBC Sports-Yahoo partnership has generated an extensive amount of content integration, particularly around events such as college football’s National Signing Day and the creation of the daily “SportsDash” sports talk program that appears on NBC Sports Network and both partners’ websites.
Similar content integration is expected to happen during the Olympics. Yahoo will embed some of its staff in Stamford, Conn., where NBC’s digital team is based, to work directly on that.
“We expect to have a historic level of interest for Sochi,” Cordella said. “You think about this compared to Vancouver [in 2010], the iPad wasn’t even out yet back then.”
February 5, 2014 09:51 AM
Executive Director Dave Ogrean
Photo by:GETTY IMAGES
Ogrean, who’s also a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee board of directors, joined USA Hockey in 2005. During his eight years of leadership, the organization’s total revenue rose 45 percent from $24.4 million to $35.4 million.
USA Hockey President Ron DeGregorio said in a statement: “His leadership has been a significant factor in the continued progress we’ve made overall, and we’re fortunate to have him guiding USA Hockey.”
Ogrean played a critical role in forging a partnership with the NHL three years ago that sees the league contribute $8 million annually to the USA Hockey Foundation, which supports national hockey programs and initiatives. He also led the creation of the American Development Model, an initiative to assist hockey associations with the development of young players. USA Hockey’s player membership has grown from 442,077 in 2005 to 510,279 today.
February 5, 2014 09:50 AM
Citi is bringing its Olympic hospitality home.
Rather than limiting its hospitality to Sochi, the company is renting a loft in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood where it will host employees, clients and customers from Feb. 18-23. Citi is the only sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Committee doing on-site hospitality in the U.S., and sources estimated that it will spend more than $1 million over those six days.
Like Citi, the USOC also decided to expand its hospitality offerings from Sochi to the U.S. The organization is hosting five hospitality events in four U.S. cities next year (SportsBusiness Journal, Oct. 21-27).
Both the USOC and Citi’s plans are driven in part by the challenge of reaching Sochi, which requires a 20-hour flight from many U.S. cities, and a belief that there’s an opportunity to give more customers Olympic experiences by creating domestic events.
“We like to look for client engagement opportunities beyond the actual events,” Davis said. “The Olympics is the perfect sponsorship to do that with because it’s not here in the U.S., and even if it were in the U.S., the number of people who could experience it would be limited.”
The loft Citi is renting will hold 300 to 500 people. Davis said Citi is still planning, but she expects the loft will host morning, midday and evening events. Citi doesn’t have an estimate of how many guests it will host. Some days it may be as many as 1,000, on others far fewer.
Guests will be able to view the Olympics on projector screens and TVs. There will be athlete appearances and interactive elements, such as a small luge course.
The company plans to issue invitations to the hospitality center in January. Davis said success won’t be determined by a traditional return-on-investment measurement.
“We’ll reach back out to the clients and colleagues and see if they walk away with the sense that Citi enabled them to have a richer experience with the Olympics,” Davis said. “It’s all about employee and client engagement.”
Lead Dog Marketing, which was selected in an agency review held this fall, will run the hospitality center.
February 5, 2014 09:49 AM
High shipping costs and Russian food regulations have made it challenging for U.S. Olympic Committee sponsors to get their companies’ food products into the country for the Sochi Games.
Sponsor Chobani won’t have any products at the USOC hospitality center; Smucker’s is still exploring what products it will try to get in to Russia.
Packaged goods companies that are USOC sponsors typically ship their products to the Olympics so that athletes and members of the USOC delegation can use them. By doing so, they hope to raise awareness of the products, showcase their support of Team USA and get media attention if athletes mention their brands during interviews.
Each Olympic Games presents its own set of shipping challenges. For the Beijing Games, brands had to list all the ingredients in food products on the exterior of shipping boxes in order for the boxes to be admitted into China. For the London Games, brands couldn’t send any products with genetically modified foods, which are banned by the European Union.
The Sochi Games have presented similar challenges. Russia, like the European Union, has a ban against genetically modified foods, and the country has special regulations about foods with live cultures in them, like Chobani’s yogurt.
“In a normal situation, it’s hard to get food to these places,” said Sandy Uridge, Kellogg Co. senior director of integrated consumer promotions. “It’s complicated for an Olympics.”
The USOC begins evaluating the shipping rules of Olympic host countries five years before a Games. It works with cargo-shipping company Rock-It Cargo, which handles the international shipping for hundreds of bands touring worldwide, to understand what can and cannot be shipped.
Companies such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, which already have extensive and well-established operations in Russia, aren’t affected by the country’s shipping rules, but Kellogg’s, Chobani and Smucker’s all have had to work with the USOC to determine what they can send to Sochi.
Uridge said Kellogg’s doesn’t have a cereal business in Russia, so the company will be shipping breakfast-related products from Europe.
Chobani made arrangements to get its product into Russia but decided against sending its yogurt there because of high shipping costs. The company is exploring the possibility of having a yogurt station at the USOC’s processing center in Munich as an alternative. Team USA athletes will pass through the processing center to get supplies and equipment before going to Sochi, and the yogurt would be offered alongside meals that are being served there.
Chobani confirmed it will not be shipping product to Russia but declined to comment on questions about its shipping plans.
February 5, 2014 09:48 AM
The U.S. Olympic Committee board of directors finalized a four-year contract extension with Scott Blackmun that will see him continue to lead the organization through the 2016 Rio Games.
Tripp Mickle talks about the challenges Scott Blackmun faced, the job he has done and how his salary stacks up to the rest of the sports industry.
“This extension is an indication of the excellent job Scott has done the last four years,” USOC Chairman Larry Probst said in an email. “Scott has worked diligently to build the reputation of the USOC both domestically and abroad, and we are excited that this extension will keep him as our leader for another four years.”
The contract is Blackmun’s second with the USOC. The deal offers an increase in base compensation but a decrease in performance compensation. Bonuses in his previous deal brought his total compensation to $765,369 last year, according to USOC tax filings, but the new deal doesn’t include a long-term incentive bonus of $425,000 that rewarded him for staying in the job the last four years.
The USOC was in turmoil when Blackmun joined it in early 2010. He was the USOC’s third CEO in less than a year, and he stepped into the job at a time when Olympic partners criticized the organization for becoming insular and ineffective. He responded by promoting a service-minded culture at the USOC that was more inclusive of outside constituent groups like the national governing bodies and former Olympians. He led that effort by emailing NGB executives the summaries of board meetings and sharing the USOC’s financials at the Olympic Assembly — things that had never been done in the past.
“Scott rebuilt the trust and confidence of everyone within the Olympic family that the USOC is a stable partner for all of us, whether you’re an NGB or a corporate partner,” said Steve Penny, USA Gymnastics president and CEO.
Blackmun and Probst also worked to repair the organization’s standing internationally. They traveled to events such as gatherings of the Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees, Pan-American Sports Organization meetings and Sport Accord meetings. They were rewarded by being named to the International Olympic Committee’s marketing and international relations commissions.
Perhaps Blackmun’s biggest international achievement came last spring when the USOC reached a new revenue-sharing agreement with the IOC. The USOC had faced escalating criticism because of an agreement that gave it 20 percent of IOC sponsorship revenue and 12 percent of Olympic media rights fees paid by U.S. broadcaster NBC. The situation even had been blamed for Chicago’s failed bid to host the 2016 Olympics. Blackmun helped craft a deal that will see the USOC retain $410 million in revenue but contribute a greater share to the cost of future Olympic Games.
For his successes in 2012, SportsBusiness Journal/Daily named Blackmun Executive of the Year. Under his leadership, the USOC increased its total number of sponsors from 13 to 22, adding blue-chip brands such as BP, Citi and Kellogg’s. U.S. Olympic teams also won the medal count at the 2010 Vancouver Games and 2012 London Games.
Blackmun, 56, now is focused on increasing the USOC’s revenue through fundraising and bringing the Summer Games back to the U.S. in 2024. The organization launched a new foundation earlier this year to assist with fundraising, and it is in the process of determining how it will select a potential bid city for the 2024 Games.
“Scott came to the USOC at a time of turmoil and he, along with the senior team he has built around him, have provided not only much needed stability to the USOC but have helped further enhance the Olympic Movement in the U.S.,” Probst said. “I look forward to the USOC’s continued success, and to partnering with Scott for the next four years.”