• Heiberg leaves a legacy of trust with IOC sponsors

    Gerhard Heiberg, head of the IOC’s marketing commission, is stepping down.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    When Gerhard Heiberg stepped in to replace Dick Pound as the head of the marketing commission in 2001, it looked like the International Olympic Committee’s troubled days were behind it. The organization was just coming out of a bribery scandal around the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, and though its brand had been damaged, its sponsor roster remained strong.

    But the coming years brought unforeseen troubles. There were the human rights protests of sponsors before the Beijing Games, the recession that killed marketing budgets worldwide and, most recently, concerns about Russia’s anti-gay legislation that unsettled sponsors.

    Heiberg, who officially steps down as chair of the marketing commission after the Sochi Games, steered the organization through all of that, and he did it with a calmness and political sophistication that sponsors and IOC members alike trusted and appreciated.

    “It was reassuring to have him there as someone who got what the sponsors needed,” said Pound, his predecessor in the post. “He was reliable and trustworthy and willing to listen to what sponsors needed.”

    Heiberg, 74, said, “I wouldn’t say it’s been an easy ride. We’ve had our challenges, but I’m grateful for having the possibility.”

    Former IOC President Jacques Rogge tapped Heiberg, the former head of the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics, to lead the organization’s marketing efforts in 2001 because he trusted him. Rogge felt that Heiberg’s experience organizing an Olympics and his career as the CEO of cement manufacturer Norcem equipped him with an ability to balance both the needs of the Olympics and the needs of sponsors.

    Early on, Heiberg brought the IOC’s sponsorship sales effort back in house after years of having Atlanta-based Meridian Management run it. He also took an active role in the sales and renewal process.

    Former IOC marketing executive Davis Butler, who worked under Heiberg for nine years, said that the marketing team introduced Heiberg to executives of potential sponsors early. He often told them personal stories about the Olympics. One of his favorites was about the time the king of Spain used a peseta as proof of identity in Lillehammer.

    “He talked about how the Olympics can be such a motivating force for people,” Butler said. “After he wowed them, I would say, ‘Here’s what you do with TOP.’ They already had stars in their eyes.”

    One of Heiberg’s talents was balancing the demands of an organizing committee, which sells its own local sponsorships, with those of the IOC, which sells global deals. That was most evident when Johnson & Johnson began looking at a TOP deal for the 2008 Beijing Games. Beijing organizers had rights to the health care category and moved to protect it because they thought it would be a lucrative one for them, but J&J wanted global rights. Heiberg helped persuade J&J to do a local deal first, and then the IOC stitched together the global rights that J&J wanted afterward.

    “He had this way of navigating very difficult circumstances and producing a logical result that made everyone happy,” said Rob Prazmark, founder of 21 Marketing, which worked on the deal. “He’s very much a consensus builder.”

    Heiberg was particularly effective during the recession. Before it began, the IOC was in talks with Dow Chemical and Procter & Gamble about becoming partners. The recession forced both companies to walk away from potential deals, but Heiberg didn’t give up. He stayed in touch with Dow CEO Andrew Liveris and continued to talk with P&G CMO Marc Pritchard. The two eventually signed deals after the 2010 Vancouver Games.

    TOP revenue under Heiberg:

    TOP V (2001-04): $663 million
    TOP VI (2005-08): $866 million
    TOP VII (2009-12): $957 million
     TOP VIII (2013-16): $1 billion

    Source: International Olympic Committee

    The IOC’s TOP program had 10 sponsors and total revenue of $663 million when Heiberg took the job in 2001. It will have 10 sponsors and more than $1 billion in revenue when he leaves.

    The key to that revenue growth has been keeping long-term partners Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Visa and others happy. Heiberg played a critical role in that over the years. Sponsors turned to him when they had problems, and he usually had a solution.

    When Coca-Cola ran into what it considered ambush marketing during the Beijing Games from a local Chinese sponsor named President, which was promoting tea in the market, Heiberg pushed Beijing organizers to ensure the company’s marketing was limited to its role as sponsor of the yogurt category. He also took a strong public stance on behalf of McDonald’s against Subway after the sandwich chain developed a commercial showing Michael Phelps swimming toward the Vancouver Olympics in 2010.

    “When we’ve had unique problems, he’s always the voice of reason to go to, and when it’s possible, he’s always found solutions,” said Scott McCune, longtime Coca-Cola global sports and entertainment executive. “He’s professionally and politically savvy in a good way and capable of working to find a business solution for everyone.”

    Heiberg also has impressed Olympic marketers over the years with his integrity. Prazmark, who helped create the TOP program, was advising a client on a potential sponsorship of the Beijing Games when he discovered what he considered to be “questionable procedures” in the tender process and contacted Heiberg.

    “Gerhard and [IOC member Hein] Verbruggen were on the next plane to Beijing, meeting with the most senior people of the organizing committee and central government calling for an investigation at the highest level,” said Prazmark, who declined to offer specifics because of the sensitivities of the issue. “He understood that integrity was the cornerstone of the Olympic movement. Needless to say, corrections and changes were made.”

    Heiberg hired 21 Marketing to assist the IOC in reviewing the TOP program in 2009. The program hadn’t changed in more than 25 years. Suggestions for improvement ranged from scrapping the program altogether to shrinking the number of partners and charging each sponsor more.

    Heiberg said it would be up to his successor, who will be selected by IOC President Thomas Bach, to decide what to do.

    “Are there other opportunities?” Heiberg asked. “Are there other ways of doing this to keep the income of this in a different way? Should we have layers of sponsors? For the new person, it’s good to come in and discuss other possibilities.”

    After traveling from Athens to Beijing and Russia to Rio over the last decade, Heiberg plans to spend more time with his family and take a less active role in the IOC. His advice for his successor is simple.

    “He should keep a very open mind.”



    What is your approach when a sponsor comes to you and says, “I have an issue”?

    HEIBERG:
    It depends on the size of the issue. If it’s a small issue, we have an organization in Lausanne. Some of them are big ones and challenging. I felt this is my job. I felt this is what I’m supposed to do to see to it. When we have people coming out with ambush marketing, we have to stop that.

    What sponsorship deal are you most proud of?

    HEIBERG:
    That is a difficult question. I am proud of all of them. Maybe the one that we have really made something out of is Samsung. They started from a big minus, and being a sponsor of the IOC, they show what this can mean to them. They have really worked on it, and we have had excellent communication on what to do and not to do and how to learn from other sponsors. We developed some good programs that have been of great importance to Samsung.

    Having said that, I have worked well with all of them. I remember going into Lenovo trying to convince them to become a TOP sponsor. They were not willing at all. They said it was too much money. Why the hell should we invest in this? I succeeded in convincing them.

    Why did you decide to close Meridian Management, which had overseen IOC sponsorship sales before you arrived?

    HEIBERG:
    I felt there were two competing bodies: Meridian and IOC marketing. I felt this was a waste of resources. We needed to have one organization doing the work. The easiest thing was to close Meridian. That way we could concentrate more on what we were going to do.

    Was that difficult?

    HEIBERG:
    Yes, because we felt we had to close the operations in Atlanta. People were asked to move from Atlanta to Lausanne [Switzerland]. Some people felt it was the wrong decision, but I was convinced we had to do it and we did it. After some time, it went smoothly.

    You often address the entire IOC membership and relay the concerns of sponsors. How do you approach those statements so that you make sure members understand sponsor issues?

    HEIBERG:
    It’s a question of being honest and open. There are people that think differently and that’s fine, but let’s get it out in the open. Openness. Transparency.

    This job we’re doing is important for the whole Olympic movement. There are 204 [national Olympic committees], 35 [sports federations]. They need our resources and money, and I feel proud of having this job. It comes from my heart when I’m up there and I tell everyone what’s happening.

    Do you have a favorite memory from your time as marketing chair?

    HEIBERG:
    Maybe the signing with Coca-Cola through 2020 at the Great Wall in China. That was a nice, interesting moment. I felt great. It was through 2020. I thought, “We will get all the others as well to sign until 2020. We will have some buffer.”

    Tags: IOC, Olympics, Coca-Cola, Visa, Subway, Samsung, Lenovo
  • NGBs, having met the challenge of recession, looking to grow

    Headed into the Vancouver Games, U.S. Winter Olympic national governing bodies were reeling from the recession. Most lost sponsors. Many cut staff. But over the last four years, they’ve had a chance to rebuild.

    Signs of improvement can be seen across all the winter national governing bodies. USA Bobsled added three new sponsors, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association increased its staff, and USA Hockey increased its corporate revenue by $500,000 a year.

    USA Bobsled has new deals; USA Hockey, led by Dave Ogrean (below), has a bigger budget.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES (2)
    The gains have been steady enough to restore lost revenue and give executives confidence that they can begin to increase revenue in the future.

    “It’s taken a long time to get back to where we were,” said Bill Marolt, CEO of U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “For [national governing bodies], it’s always a challenge to find the resources. We’ve met that challenge, and we’ll get through this year in OK shape.”

    The organizations have had that success despite the challenges associated with the Sochi Olympics. The Games have been overshadowed by media coverage of terrorist threats. Reaching the host city takes almost a full day of travel, making it a less appealing destination for corporate clients than the 2006 Torino or 2010 Vancouver Games. NGB executives say hospitality programs, which include donors and sponsors, are smaller than years past. US Biathlon, for example, will go from hosting 30 guests in Vancouver to just 10 in Sochi.

    “It’s expensive and complicated and it’s a big commitment of time,” said Max Cobb, US Biathlon’s executive director. “We scaled way back.”

    But an improving economy has allowed most NGBs to overcome that. USA Bobsled signed new deals with BMW, 24 Hour Fitness, Century 21 and Putinka, a Russian vodka brand. The U.S. Olympic Committee helped facilitate the BMW and 24 Hour Fitness deals. The BMW deal has been big for the team. It bought them six two-man sleds and made a documentary about the sleds that gave the team 30 minutes of exposure on NBC.

    “It lends credibility that we have those premium brands interested in partnering with us,” USA Bobsled CEO Darrin Steele said. “As you add more of those, the narrative gets easier.”

    USSA has had similar success adding sponsors from the USOC’s partnership ranks. It signed deals with Chobani, Kellogg’s, Liberty Mutual and Procter & Gamble, which are both featuring USSA athletes in promotions. The addition of freeskiing to the Olympic program also helped the organization as it was able to add The North Face and expand deals with existing partners, helping it push total sponsorship revenue back to the levels of 2008.

    But Marolt said that while the sponsorship marketplace has rebounded and deals have been signed, the financial commitment from each individual sponsor hasn’t rebounded. As a result, USSA has more sponsors than ever.

    “Sponsorship pricing was restructured [after 2008],” Marolt said. “Going forward from that time, we’ve had to deal with a corporate marketplace that has been good, but a different pricing structure.”

    USA Hockey Executive Director Dave Ogrean agreed, saying, “Because of their economic pressures, sponsor companies are trying to get as much as they can for the dollars and get as much as they can out of that dollar.”

    USA Hockey was one of the few organizations that increased its budget during the recession. The NGB secured a commitment from the NHL valued at more than $8 million a year before the Vancouver Games. That’s provided a big lift to its annual revenue, and increases in membership, where it added 35,000 new members the last four years, and corporate revenue, which rose from $2.2 million to $2.7 million annually, have put it in the most stable financial position it’s been in years.

    US Biathlon attacked the challenges that followed Vancouver by developing a fundraising program. It created a trustee program for its foundation and put together fundraising events that raised $160,000 toward its $2.4 million annual budget. It also added TD Bank’s former CEO as chairman, and he helped the NGB land a sponsorship with State Street Financial.

    US Speedskating took a different approach to restoring revenue it lost following the recession. The organization’s revenue fell from $4.6 million during the 2009-10 fiscal year to $3.1 million in 2010-11. But it created its first Olympic trials competition and secured broadcast coverage for the event on NBC. The move helped the organization land three new sponsors — BMW, TD Ameritrade and Liberty Mutual — and it was profitable. Revenue this year is projected to be $4.3 million.

    “We’ve righted the ship in a lot of ways,” said Ted Morris, US Speedskating’s executive director. “We have the ability to go out now and talk to partners about the value we can offer them.”

    U.S. Figure Skating made headway in a similar fashion. The organization sublicensed the rights to the International Skating Union’s Grand Prix competitions and secured more than seven hours of broadcast time on NBC. The media inventory it added since Vancouver helped it land new deals with Procter & Gamble’s Puffs brand, Alka-Seltzer and others that pushed total corporate revenue to $4.5 million this year.

    USA Luge is the only organization that failed to restore revenue lost after the recession. USA Luge lost a $1 million sponsorship from Verizon. Its new executive director, Jim Leahy, is restructuring the board and looking for ways to generate new revenue.

    Executives at every NGB believe that will be easier to do over the next four years than it was over these past four years. The economy continues to improve, and there’s a real sense of optimism that corporate interest in South Korea, which will host the 2018 Olympics, will be greater than Russia.

    “There are companies investing in the Russian market, but there are more companies investing in the Korean marketplace,” Steele said. “My gut says we’ll be able to make an easier pitch for Korea.”

    Tags: Hockey, Olympics, Media, NBC, USOC, Figure Skating
  • Bach’s history a signal that his leadership will be proactive

    The Sochi Olympics have started, and the world is holding its collective breath. Will these Games come off safely?

    We’ll know for certain in the next fortnight, but the guy we bet can hold his breath longest is new International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. These are his inaugural Games, so it’s the first time he has stood in front of billions to open an Olympiad. He’s a global visionary, but we’re guessing you still don’t know much about this lawyer, businessman, politician and competitor.

    In a word, he is fiercely competitive. We know this because he won gold at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games for West Germany in the team foil competition. He’s also a two-time world champion, which means he likes a good individual duel. Just ask the U.S. Olympic Committee. It learned the hard way in its negotiations over broadcast revenue as it related to U.S. bids to host the Summer Games. The USOC sent New York (2005) and Chicago (2009) out to fight, and both were sent home quickly.

    So have no doubt Bach came to Sochi ready for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Ring of Steel (as it relates to terrorism) just as much as he arrived ready to deal with any slight associated with gay rights.

    “Fear is a very bad adviser,” Bach told the media recently. “It is not a category in which I think.”
    What does Bach’s presidency mean for sports in North America? Will the results mirror those of former Olympic sailor Jacques Rogge, whose 12-year IOC term was characterized by organizational stability, increased revenue, heightened focus on anti-doping and the launch of the Youth Olympic Games, but also a pronounced fatigue at the end of his presidency?

    Our guess is no.

    “Fear is a very bad adviser. It is not a category in which I think,” Bach said in the run-up to Sochi.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    In all likelihood, sports history will remember Rogge as an effective manager who followed the tumultuous reign of Juan Antonio Samaranch with a cool hand on the tiller. Bach won’t seek the same approach to consistency and stability. Instead, we think he’ll attack the big issues that concern him.

    Bach knows the IOC’s quirks and politics having served as a board member since 1996, earning roles as vice president from 2000-04 and 2006-13. Before 1996, he served as a member of multiple IOC commissions. He also was a supervisory board member for Germany’s FIFA World Cup in 2006.

    According to the IOC’s Dick Pound, the former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency and longtime vice president of the IOC’s marketing efforts, “Bach will bring a whole new level of energy to the IOC and Olympic movement and ultimately try to energize the IOC into something more than a rubber-stamp process for approval of executive board decisions. There are many new issues and challenges he will face, and I expect until Sochi is behind him, he’ll spend his time assessing the nature of the team he wants to put together.”

    Here’s where we think Bach’s foil is pointed:

    The Soviet gay propaganda law appropriately received major attention in North America, where gay rights are important and influential. And while IOC monitoring of Russia’s human rights initiatives was expected, Bach placed some very public pressure on Russia’s Putin at the end of January, when he made clear Olympians could champion equality and inclusion in press conferences, but the Olympic charter ban on making political statements during competition or medal ceremonies would stand. Given Germany’s open culture toward homosexuality, we expect Bach will privately support athlete anger associated with this issue. For Bach, inclusion will not be a cliché.

    More efficient bidding. Bach led the second-place Munich 2018 bid and was quoted as saying he wants to reduce process costs and time. Given the two recent failed U.S. bids and the significant costs incurred, this may help more U.S. cities to consider hosting future Games … but only if the USOC and IOC have truly patched up their differences over broadcast revenue sharing.

    Bach just finished presiding over his first initial bid process — for the 2022 Winter Olympics — and knows Oslo, Norway; Beijing/Zhangjiakou, China; Almaty, Kazakhstan; Krakow, Poland/Jasna, Slovakia; and Lviv, Ukraine, want to host the world. Interestingly, voters in Stockholm (January 2014) and Munich (November 2013) rejected bidding, citing projected costs. This must have stung Bach, since he is from Würzburg, north of Munich, and knew Stockholm, which hosted the 1912 Summer Games, would have become the first city to ever host both the Summer and Winter Games. How Sochi unfolds will influence Bach’s management of 2022’s winner.

    Bach’s engagement of the USOC should matter to league commissioners Adam Silver (NBA), Gary Bettman (NHL), Don Garber (MLS), Laurel Richie (WNBA) and Bud Selig’s MLB replacement (projected for early 2015) because the U.S. has not hosted the Olympics since 2002 and won’t before 2024 at the earliest. Stated simply, basketball, hockey, soccer and baseball are part of the international sports landscape and influenced by their respective international federations relative to competition, drug testing and seasonality. If North American leagues wish to expand overseas or showcase their athletes in global competition on U.S. soil in 2024 or 2026, they will have to play ball with Bach and the international federations.

    American sports practitioners may not yet care about the new IOC president, but we think they soon will. Bach’s coronation and ascendency continues a trend of growing European clout when it comes to charting the growth and global visibility of America’s domestic sports leagues.

    And Bach will not fear the USOC or its big leagues. He’ll come right at them.

    Rick Burton (rhburton@syr.edu) is the David B. Falk Professor of Sport Management at Syracuse University and former CMO of the U.S. Olympic Committee. Norm O’Reilly (oreillyn@ohio.edu) is professor and chair of the Department of Sports Administration at Ohio University.



    IT’S YOUR TURN TO SPEAK OUT
    For further information on guest columns in Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal, please contact Betty Gomes at (704) 973-1439 or bgomes@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

    Tags: Olympics, USOC, IOC
  • NBC dips to 13.9 rating, 25.1M viewers for Saturday night's coverage

    NBC saw a slight audience decline for the first night of televised Winter Olympic competition compared to four years ago. Saturday’s tape-delayed prime-time coverage of the Sochi Games from 8-11:06 p.m. ET earned a 13.9 fast-national rating and 25.1 million viewers, off from a 14.0 rating and 26.2 million viewers for the second night of coverage from Vancouver, which aired live.

    The second night of tape-delayed coverage from Turin in 2006 earned a 13.5 rating and 23.2 million viewers.

    Minneapolis-St. Paul continued to be the leading U.S. market with a 22.4 local rating on Saturday night.

    Meanwhile, NBC Sports Network averaged 2.6 million viewers for Olympic coverage Saturday from 6 a.m to 2:30 p.m., marking the network's best daytime viewership on record.

    Team figure skating from 1-2 p.m. averaged 4.9 million viewers, marking NBC Sports Network'’s most-viewed telecast ever. The event passed the previous high of 4.4 million viewers set by the women's soccer gold-medal match from the 2012 London Games.

    Tags: NBC, Olympics
  • TV Timeout: Weekend news shows examine Sochi security threats

    With the Sochi Games under way, news programs in the U.S. continued to examine the security issues surrounding the Olympics. THE DAILY offers a sampling from the weekend:

    U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning, saying, “The threat assessment has not changed since we've been here, and we coordinate very closely with the Russians to share information about anything that might happen.” Host David Gregory said, “A cloud does hang over these Olympics as there is still real concern over the prospects of terrorism. … And the politics of these Olympics is raising a key question as well. How much bigger will the divide between the United States and Russia get?” NBC’s Andrea Mitchell: “Officials here in Washington are very concerned. They are on pins and needles when you talk to them. They are just sort of crossing their fingers that Russia has got this under control. For all the talk about cooperation, this is a very tense situation." NBC’s Richard Engel, reporting live from Sochi, said, “Now that the games have actually begun, the mood here is improving. There’s more focus on the competition, more focus on the athletes." He added, "But for Russia, these Olympics are about a lot more than just sport. ... For Russia, Sochi is a symbol of its return, a world power once more. ... Russia is hosting a big welcome back party for itself" (“Meet the Press,” NBC, 2/9).

    ESPN's "Sports Reporters" discussed the issue at length on Sunday, with LZ Granderson saying the IOC was only thinking "Ka-ching!" when selecting Sochi as the host city. Granderson: "Unfortunately, this is the new normal for us. ... We know how impossible it is to make sure that every spectator is safe, it just is. I think the IOC really should be holding their heads down in shame, placing the Olympics in this place.” The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan said, “The IOC is not the Rotary Club. ... There's a lot of back-stage stuff that went on. ... We can’t say there was bribery, but there was influence exerted by powerful Russian interests. ... The No. 1 reason not to have given the Games to Sochi was the geographical proximity to the caucuses and to Chechnya and Dagestan. ... They don't know whether the elusive black widows are in the town. They don’t know a lot of things. This thing will not be over until everybody is back home safe." Granderson: "This is Putin playing terrorist games. Trying to prove he still has control of his country, when in fact, he should have been more cautious when people died" (“Sports Reporters,” ESPN2, 2/9).

    NBC’s Stephanie Gosk, reporting from Sochi’s Olympic Park on Friday: "It may not be the first thing people notice when they get off the plane here in Sochi, but by the time spectators get here, they will fully understand just how much security there is on the ground. Spectators who come to the Olympic Park have to go through multiple layers. ... A lot of people are saying, ‘This is really an unprecedented level of security.’ ... Security experts that have been here in this park in recent days have said, ‘An attack here would be incredibly difficult, even for the most organized terror groups'" (“XXII Winter Olympics,” NBC, 2/8).

  • Atos Origin renews deal with IOC through 2020

    Atos Origin, which has provided technology support for the Olympics for 25 years, extended its TOP sponsorship through 2020.

    It is the second extension the IOC has announced since the Sochi Games began. It previously announced a renewal with Panasonic through 2024.

    Atos has sponsored the IOC since 1989, and the renewal ensures the IOC won’t have to change its technology support and infrastructure ahead of the 2018 and 2020 Olympics. The deal with Atos is mostly a value-in-kind agreement, and the company uses it to showcase its IT systems to potential customers.

    In a statement, IOC President Thomas Bach said: “Technology is critical to the success of each edition of the Olympic Games. We are delighted that we will be able to continue relying on Atos and its vast experience to deliver flawless, innovative IT services.”

    Patrick Adiba, Atos’ vice president of Olympics and major events, said that the deal gives the company a chance to continue to improve its IT services for the Games and make the Olympics even better by using cloud-based technology to provide more “efficiency, agility and productivity.”

    “I am delighted we will continue our partnership long into the future,” Adiba said in a statement.

    Tags: IOC, Olympics, Panasonic
  • Liberty Mutual, North Face scrap Sochi hospitality plans

    Liberty Mutual and The North Face canceled their North American hospitality programs in Sochi.

    The companies made the decision just weeks before the Olympics at a time when security concerns were on the rise and reports of incomplete hotels began to surface in the press.

    The Sochi Games are the first Olympics in which Liberty Mutual is a sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Committee. The North Face is a sponsor of the U.S. Freeskiing Team.

    In a statement, Liberty Mutual said it “decided to not send guests to Sochi, a decision which was made based upon a number of factors.” The company added that it would continue to support Team USA with marketing and promotion in the U.S., where it is an advertiser on NBC.

    Liberty Mutual had shown tremendous enthusiasm for the Olympics as a first-time sponsor. It signed on as the presenting sponsor of the USOC’s “Road to Sochi” tour, which visited 12 cities between last October and this month. It also signed on to sponsor national governing bodies like U.S. Ski & Snowboard and expanded its support of USA Hockey by signing on to be presenting sponsor of women’s USA Hockey exhibition games.

    The company had planned a significant hospitality program in Sochi. It’s unclear how many guests it was going to have, but several events such as a USA Hockey breakfast have been canceled because Liberty Mutual scrapped its trip.

    Sources familiar with The North Face’s decision said VF Corp., which owns the outdoors brand, made the decision to cancel the hospitality program. They said the brand still is sending executives from its European division.

    The North Face has a sizeable business in Russia and had planned to host many Russian retailers and salespeople at the Sochi Games.

    In a statement, a spokeswoman for The North Face said: “We’ve been a longtime supporter of the freeskiing movement and will continue to promote the success of our athletes and our ongoing commitment to the sport, as they take to the slopes in The North Face U.S. Freeskiing Competition Uniforms.”

    In addition to the security and hotel issues in Sochi, the Canadian Olympic Committee filed a trademark lawsuit against The North Face before the Games. The COC alleges that the company developed a retail display and apparel that mislead consumers into believing it’s an official Olympic sponsor.

    Tags: North America, Olympics, Russia
  • Sochi opening ceremony down from 2010, but high for non-live event

    NBC earned a 17.0 fast-national rating and 31.7 million viewers for the tape-delayed opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics Friday night from 8-11:08 p.m. ET.

    That figure is off slightly from the live opening to the 2010 Vancouver Games, which drew a 17.3 rating and 32.7 million viewers. Last night’s telecast marks the most-viewed, non-live opening ceremony since the 1994 Lillehammer Games, beating out the 12.8 rating and 22.8 million viewers for the 2006 Turin Games.

    Minneapolis-St. Paul led all U.S. markets with a 26.0 local rating.

    Tags: NBC, Olympics
  • Sochi Games prompt sponsors to break new ad creative

    Procter & Gamble is one of many Olympic sponsors breaking new creative during the Sochi Games.
    The U.S. Olympic Committee and NBC said more companies broke creative during the 2014 opening ceremony than ever before.

    Companies ranging from Procter & Gamble to Liberty Mutual all developed Olympic-themed advertising for the broadcast. The total number of Olympic sponsors advertising during the Sochi Games has risen from less than 10 to more than 15, and almost all of those sponsors developed Olympic-themed creative for the Games.

    “It’s second only to the Super Bowl (in new creative),” said Seth Winter NBC Sports executive vice president of ad sales.

    USOC Chief Marketing Officer Lisa Baird said that NBC’s promotion of the Winter Games and research showing that it would attract a large audience inspired many sponsors to advertise.

    “The combination of what (NBC Sports chief marketer) John Miller has done to market the Games, and Russia is an enigma, a place of mystery and romance, and that has people wanting to see the Olympics,” Baird said.

    NBC’s ad sales suffered during the Vancouver Games in 2010 because it took place at the end of the recession, but the economy rebounded and the Sochi Games will be profitable for the network. The number of sponsors the USOC has added since Vancouver helped NBC’s sales. Many of those sponsors will advertise during their first Winter Games, including Liberty Mutual, Chobani, Smuckers, Kellogg’s and USG.

    Budweiser and Hilton are the only USOC sponsors that opted not to advertise during the Sochi Olympics, while Panasonic was one of the only consumer-facing sponsors of the International Olympic Committee not to advertise.

    Liberty Mutual worked with its agency, Hill Holiday, to develop three spots that highlight comeback stories like Kerri Strug’s vault at the 1996 Olympics and the “Miracle on Ice” of the 1980 Olympics. It ties those stories of overcoming obstacles in sports back to people overcoming obstacles in life like the devastation of a tornado.

    United, which hasn’t advertised during recent Olympics, is breaking a spot with a voice-over provided by Matt Damon. The 60-second ad, titled “Athletes Abroad,” features figure skater Gracie Gold, speedskater Shani Davis and 10 other Olympians.

    “We’re pushing athletes and pushing sponsors to use them because we think they’re the best spokespeople in the world,” Baird said.

    There were also national governing body sponsors breaking commercials during the opening ceremony. Century 21, which is sponsoring USA Bobsled, is running a spot with the tagline “Smarter. Bolder. Faster.”

    “This Winter Olympics has come into its own,” Baird said. “We have a team America is really excited about.”

    Sochi Olympic Advertisers
    Coca-Cola
    McDonald’s
    Visa
    Chobani
    Citi
    TD Ameritrade
    Kellogg’s
    Smuckers
    Liberty Mutual
    BMW
    AT&T
    Procter & Gamble
    GE
    United
    USG
    Century 21*


    * USA Bobsled sponsor

    Tags: NBC, Super Bowl, Olympics
  • Overbooked cruise ship forces Ludus Tours to move 100 guests

    Hospitality company Ludus Tours had to move 100 of its guests booked on the Grand Holiday cruise ship in Sochi because Sochi Olympic organizers overbooked the ship’s rooms.

    “It was severely overbooked,” Ludus Tours founder Adam Dailey said. “We’re talking hundreds of rooms.”

    Families of U.S. and Canadian hockey team members also experienced overbooked rooms on the ship, according to sources.

    The Sochi Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (SOCOG), which managed the booking, didn’t reply to a request for comment.

    Dailey said that SOCOG informed Ludus Tours that their guests would have to move just before they arrived at the Sochi airport. SOCOG made arrangements for Ludus Tours’ guests to stay at another hotel, which was built for the Games. But Dailey said their guests were frustrated by the last-minute change in plans.

    “If they had told us two weeks ago, I could have negotiated to get our money back, but they waited until (our guests) were in the air and told us,” Dailey said. “We’re meeting them at the airport with bad news. For the most part people understand, but it’s a group and some are saying, ‘This is not what we wanted.’”

    Dailey said that was frustrating because an earlier notice would have enabled Ludus to find other accommodations that their guests may have liked.

    Ludus Tours has put together hospitality programs for six Olympics, the first being the Athens Games in 2004. The company typically arranges trips for individual clients and national governing bodies.

    “I’ve never heard of overbooking for an Olympics,” Dailey said. “Usually, rooms come available late but there’s not overbooking. The communication is the worst thing — just not telling us there was a problem two weeks ago.”

    Tags: Hockey, Olympics, Russia
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