• Team USA merchandise for Sochi outpacing London sales

    Ralph Lauren's opening ceremony sweaters have been hot items at the USA House shop.
    GETTY IMAGES
    If you want to buy a T-shirt at the USA House shop this weekend, pickings are slim. The same is true for Olympic pins, and there are only a handful of Ralph Lauren ceremony cardigans left.

    For the third consecutive Olympics, Team USA merchandise is moving fast. Sales at the U.S. Olympic Committee’s store in Sochi and online have more than doubled Vancouver and have been so strong that they’re on track to exceed sales for the London Summer Games.

    This would mark the first time since the Salt Lake City Games that sales of Winter Olympic apparel outpaced Summer Olympic apparel — a feat made all the more surprising because so few people even knew where Sochi was before the Games began, said Peter Zeytoonjian, USOC managing director of consumer products.

    “When we started marketing Team USA going to Sochi, people didn’t know where Sochi was,” Zeytoonjian said. “People thought it would not be as popular as London. But that’s been proven wrong. Fans want to support the team no matter where the Games take place. That’s a good realization.

    Zeytoonjian credited the USOC’s “Raise Your Hands” fundraising effort with helping drive sales. The organization made blue mittens with Go USA stitched into them and is selling them for $14 at retail outlets around the country. It sent out emails and mailers promoting the mittens, Zeytoonjian said, helping raise awareness for other Team USA apparel.

    The top-selling items at the Team USA store in Sochi are Nike’s medal-stand jacket and its tech fleece for men and women. Ralph Lauren’s best-selling items are opening ceremony sweaters and hats.

    “It’s a collectors item,” Zeytoonjian said of the patchwork cardigan that Ralph Lauren made. “Either you like it or you don’t. Those that like it, love it. I love it. It looked great on TV and the athletes wore it with pride.”

    Since Zeytoonjian joined the USOC in 2009 from the NFL, the organization’s licensing and merchandise business has grown steadily with each Olympics. Sales in Vancouver exceeded Turin. Sales in London exceed Beijing. And sales for Sochi have now doubled sales from Vancouver and exceeded those from London.

    Zeytoonjian said the USOC will take the higher demand for Team USA merchandise into account when it does its ordering for Rio 2016. He is meeting with Ralph Lauren two weeks after the Sochi Games to discuss designs for the 2016 Olympics.

    “I don’t think we’ve completely saturated the market yet,” Zeytoonjian said. “The realization is that there’s room to grow. Summer to winter may not be the difference there has been in the past.”

    Tags: Olympics, USOC
  • U.S. ice dancing win helps propel NBC to big audience gains on Monday

    The ice dancing gold by Meryl Davis and Charlie White gave NBC a boost on Monday night.
    NBC drew a 13.8 rating and 23.5 million viewers on Monday night, marking the best Winter Games audience for the second Monday since the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. Monday’s audience also marked the third time during the Sochi Games that NBC’s prime-time audience has topped the comparable night from the 2010 Vancouver Games.

    The coverage on Monday night was highlighted by a gold-medal-winning performance from the U.S. ice dancing team of Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Also featured were gold-medal finals for men’s snowboarding (snowboardcross), men’s freestyle skiing (aerials) and the two-man bobsled — which saw the U.S. team win its first medal in the event in more than 60 years.

    Monday’s 13.8 rating was up 10 percent from the same night in 2010 and up 1 percent from 2006.

    Tags: NBC, Olympics
  • North Country: Twin Cities maintain lead among all U.S. markets

    Minneapolis-St. Paul continues to lead all U.S. markets for NBC’s prime-time Olympic coverage. The market is averaging a 20.6 local rating through Monday’s telecast, ahead of the 20.0 rating for Salt Lake City. Rounding out the top five are Denver (19.1), Milwaukee (18.3) and Kansas City (17.7).

    The Twin Cities have led all markets on eight of the 11 nights to date (including a tie with Salt Lake City on Feb. 14). Salt Lake City has led three times, while Kansas City has led once (see chart, below).

    TOP U.S. MARKETS FOR NBC'S PRIME-TIME SOCHI OLYMPIC COVERAGE

    No. 1
    No. 2
    No. 3
    11th Day (Monday)
    Minneapolis-St. Paul
    Kansas City
    Salt Lake City
    10th Day (Sunday)
    Kansas City
    Milwaukee
    Buffalo
    9th Day (Saturday)
    Minneapolis-St. Paul
    Denver
    Milwaukee
    8th Day (Friday)
    Minneapolis-St. Paul*
    Salt Lake City*
    Denver
    7th Day (Thursday)
    Minneapolis-St. Paul
    Salt Lake City
    Denver
    6th Day (Wednesday)
    Minneapolis-St. Paul
    Denver
    Salt Lake City
    5th Day (Tuesday)
    Minneapolis-St. Paul
    Salt Lake City
    Denver
    4th Day (Monday)
    Salt Lake City
    Minneapolis-St. Paul
    Denver
    3rd Day (Sunday)
    Salt Lake City
    Minneapolis-St. Paul
    Denver
    2nd Day (Saturday)
    Minneapolis-St. Paul
    Portland
    Salt Lake City
    Opening Ceremony
    Minneapolis-St. Paul
    Salt Lake City
    Ft. Myers-Naples

    CHART NOTE: * = Tied for first place.

    Tags: NBC, Olympics
  • Olympic legends find Sochi to have slim-pickin’s compared to U.S.

    Unlike a lot of Olympic legends, former speedskating star Bonnie Blair is busy with appearances in Sochi.
    GETTY IMAGES
    Former Olympic gold medalists Dan Jansen and Bonnie Blair are busy at the Sochi Games. Jansen appeared at a breakfast for Dow. Blair showed up at an event for BP. They have made appearances for Citi and TD Ameritrade, respectively.

    But they’re the exception to the rule in Sochi.

    For the first time in a recent Olympic Games, agents say there are more opportunities for athlete appearances in the U.S. than there are in the host country. Many sponsors contracted their hospitality programs for Sochi, or scrapped them altogether, because of security and logistical issues. Instead, they opted to do events in the U.S.

    “We did way more hospitality back home,” said Patrick Quinn of Chicago Sports & Entertainment Partners, who works with skeleton silver medalist Noelle Pikus-Pace and others. “There’s a fraction as much as here.”

    Octagon's Peter Carlisle, who represents Michael Phelps and works with Mikaela Shiffrin, agreed. One of his Olympic legends, two-time snowboard cross gold-medalist Seth Wescott, stayed in the U.S. rather than coming to Sochi.

    "There are more opportunities for him there than there would be here," Carlisle said.

    Visa, Liberty Mutual, Citi and the USOC are all hosting events in the U.S, and they’re all bringing athletes to them.

    Quinn said he’s arranged appearances by former Olympians such as Joey Cheek, Chad Hedrick and Shannon Bahrke. He added that if he originally knew there were that many opportunities available back home, he might have arranged for Pikus-Pace to return home earlier. Instead, she’s staying in Sochi until late this week.

    “Perhaps the next time we’re going to be more aware of it and think about that,” Quinn said.

    The Leverage Agency’s Brandon Swibel, who works with Jansen and Blair, said there are fewer opportunities in Sochi for appearances, but there are also fewer Olympic legends in Sochi for those appearances.

    “It’s balanced itself out,” Swibel said. “There are less legends and less opportunities.”

    Tags: Olympics
  • Sochi Games exploding on social media around the globe

    With Facebook and Twitter leading the way, both fans and athletes of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games are making an impression on social media platforms across the globe.

    Facebook and Twitter are at the forefront of social media activity when it comes to the Sochi Games. In addition to 1 million new likes on the International Olympic Committee’s Facebook page, the social media giant reported that 24 million people were talking about these Olympics on Facebook during the first week of competition. Social media manager Hootsuite reported that there were 6.5 million mentions of the Olympics on Twitter during that same period. Overall, 1.2 billion impressions were noted on IOC Facebook and Twitter accounts in the past 30 days, according to an IOC press release.

    Other platforms are getting in on the action as well, particularly in the host country with the Russian social network VKontakte (VK). There are 60 million monthly active users of VK, and roughly 12 million of those users connected with the Olympics in the first week of competition to account for 17 million mentions.

    There was similar activity on the Chinese social network, Sina Weibo, China’s equivalent to Twitter. The IOC’s account on that platform grew by nearly 850,000 fans during the first week of the Games, and there were nearly 12.5 million mentions that included “#sochi2014.”

    Fans aren’t the only ones plugged in and engaged when it comes to these Olympics. Many of the 1,500 current Olympians, as well as 6,000 former athletes, are using the Olympic Athletes’ Hub app to engage with one another as well as fans by sharing their experiences via photographs or comments. There were more than 40,000 updates via the Olympic Athletes’ Hub in the first week.

    “The app is awesome,” said U.S. hockey player Brianna Decker in an IOC press release. “It is easily accessible and a great way for Olympians to connect with other Olympians and have fans connect with Olympians. It’s also great to have thousands of Olympians involved with this app and know that they are truly who they claim to be.”

    The total IOC fan base from social media platforms worldwide is 33.9 million, according to the IOC.

    Tags: Media, Facebook, Twitter, Olympics, IOC
  • NBC rating on Sunday gives net win over Turin on 9 of 10 nights

    NBC finished with a 12.1 fast-national rating and 21.3 million viewers for Sochi Games coverage on Sunday night, continuing a trend of beating out the comparable night from the 2006 Turin Games, but coming in well behind live coverage from the 2010 Vancouver Games.

    Sunday marked the ninth time in 10 nights that NBC’s audience topped the figures seen from Turin. Coverage on Sunday night included gold-medal finals for men’s alpine skiing (Super-G), women’s snowboarding (snowboardcross) and women’s speedskating (1,500 meters). Also featured was figure skating (ice dancing short dance) and two-man bobsledding.

    After 10 nights, NBC is averaging a 13.1 rating, down 10 percent from Vancouver, but up 8 percent from Turin.

    Tags: NBC, Olympics
  • IOC weighing skateboarding, BMX for Tokyo Summer program

    Skateboarding could be added for the 2020 Tokyo Games at the earliest.
    Energized by the additions of slopestyle and freeskiing to the Winter Games program, the IOC is weighing the addition of skateboarding and BMX halfpipe and park to the Summer Olympic program for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

    IOC Sports Director Christophe Dubi said he expects the IOC to recognize the International Skateboarding Federation by the end of the year.

    “That is probably the next boost to the sport,” he said. “Major events, exposure to the global stage is what will help the sport continue to grow.”

    The IOC is in the middle of overhauling the way it determines what sports are part of the Olympics. Jacques Rogge, the former IOC president, capped the number of summer sports at 28 and number of athletes at 10,500. His successor, Thomas Bach, is in favor of loosening those rules and making it easier to add new sports.

    BMX racing has been part of the Olympic program since 2008, but not the halfpipe or park disciplines of the sport. Dubi said that the program for Rio 2016 is set, but the IOC will look at new sports for Tokyo 2020. In addition to skateboarding and BMX halfpipe and park, the IOC also is eyeing sport climbing, another lifestyle sport.

    “We should not move away from those sports that appear to be more traditional,” he said. “You need probably a blend of urban-extreme sport and at the same time making sure that we have the ground covered with all the (traditional) others.”

    Dubi said adding slopestyle and freeskiing had been a huge benefit to the program in Sochi. The average age of Olympics viewers has been rising during the past decade, and the IOC has looked to attract younger viewers by adding new sports that appeal to them. The discipline of slopestyle and the sport of freeskiing, which have been part of the X Games for more than a decade, are an example of that.

    Dubi said internet consumption globally was up 300 percent for the Sochi Games and viewership for slopestyle had been “tremendous.”

    “What I find interesting is it’s strong on TV, which is a good thing because it’s (where) our traditional viewers (are), but it’s also good on the internet, which is the younger generation, and these age groups have a big pickup,” Dubi said.

    Dubi said the IOC feels like the Summer Games’ program is in good shape. For the first time in years, the IOC saw an uptick in younger viewers for the London Olympics, and he believes that the IOC can continue to make traditional sports relevant by making interesting venues, playing relevant music and creating colorful backdrops.

    But, he added that including “so-called extreme sports” to the program is something that could help, and the IOC will spend the rest of the year evaluating skateboarding, BMX, sport climbing and other sports.

    “By the end of 2014, we will know exactly what we will do,” Dubi said.

    The IOC has flirted with the idea of adding skateboarding since 2006. It first met with Camp Woodward President Gary Ream at the Torino Games to discuss the sport.

    Ream and BMX legend Mat Hoffman have had ongoing discussions with the IOC about skateboarding and BMX since then. They created the International Skateboarding Federation for both sports and began holding world championships in 2010. But the organization has never been recognized as an official federation by the IOC.

    In a statement to SportsBusiness Journal, Ream said: “We, the ISF, continue to have meaningful dialogue with the IOC leadership and we will follow their guidance so the skateboarding community can present skateboarding to the world properly. If skateboarding were to be added to the Olympic Games properly, it would be a great benefit to both the Games and skateboarding.

    “Skateboarding adds a youth lifestyle sport enjoyed by millions of kids worldwide. It also brings a youth culture and appeal that has a strong industry, iconic and well-known athletes, and a sport that will attract and engage a younger audience. We have seen the benefits from snowboarding and freeskiing being in the Olympic Games and we have also learned a lot from the process that led to their inclusion. The Games will help skateboarding continue to grow globally and help validate the sport to parents and an adult population. I am sure that newly elected IOC President Thomas Bach understands this and values this change as something that would be very important to the Olympic movement.”

    Tags: IOC, Skateboarding, Olympics
  • Podcast: Ann Wool, Jan Katzoff assess Sochi, sponsors

    Tripp Mickle at P&G's Family Home with Ann Wool of Ketchum and Jan Katzoff of GMR (right)
    SBJ's Tripp Mickle sits down with Ann Wool, partner and managing director for Ketchum Sports & Entertainment, and Jan Katzoff, head of global sports and entertainment for GMR Marketing, to assess the atmosphere in Sochi and which sponsors are doing well on the ground. Between their two companies, they work with roughly 10 Olympic sponsors. Among the highlights:

    Katzoff: "The traffic is the best I've probably ever seen in (Olympic) showcases, especially in the winter. Certainly this setup far surpasses what they had to deal with in Beijing, for example."

    Wool: "Swiss House was hopping the other night. You can get a bratwurst and you can get some beer and there are a lot of very intense Swiss fans in there. They've got a great thing going."

    Tags: GMR Marketing, Olympics, Russia, SBJSBD Podcast
  • TOP deal helps Dow push Sochi contracts to its customers

    Dow’s Veronika Irkha craned her head back and gazed upward at the white beams climbing from the ground to the roof line of the Bolshoy Ice Dome in the Olympic Park. The beams arched more than six stories into the air and formed an open-air, half-dome above the concourse of the ice hockey arena.

    “Whenever I come in it’s, ‘Wow,’” the Russian chemist-turned-Olympic marketer said. “The whole metal, the white on it, is a Dow customer (product) for anti-corrosion. The construction company was testing different companies’ (products) and chose ours, so whenever we go inside we’re like, ‘Yeah, it’s ours.’”

    Irkha smiles. It’s the type of smile Dow executives envisioned when they signed the company’s TOP sponsorship deal with the International Olympic Committee in 2010. The deal, which costs more than $25 million a year, was designed to excite its employee base and help generate new business for its customers.

    Midland, Mich.-based Dow makes the chemicals and plastics that other companies use to make the products and materials they sell. It calls its products “solutions,” and the company’s idea in sponsoring the Olympics was to help the customers who use those solutions to make everything from anti-corrosive coatings to power cables win contracts to supply the Olympic Games.

    The company started its sponsorship long after most of the contracts had been awarded in London, but it has had far more success getting its customers’ products — and by virtue, its products — into the venues built in Sochi. More than 20 products are incorporated into the venues in Sochi. They range from Dow’s Primal acrylic resin used for wood protection to Dow’s Endurance semi-conductive material.

    Irkha spearheaded the Olympic sales and placement effort. She joined Dow in 2006 as a chemist and became its Olympics project leader in 2010. She and her team managed to get Dow products and customers into all five venues in the Olympic coastal cluster and two of the venues in the mountain cluster. But nothing makes her more proud than their success in winning contracts at the Bolshoy Ice Dome, which will host hockey, arguably the most anticipated sport in Russia.

    Sochi won the Games in 2007, and before Dow became a sponsor, the Olympic development authority in Sochi planned to use Russian company materials in most of its venues.

    Standing outside the venue beside an industrial-sized air conditioning system used to keep the ice cool, Irkha, whose fingernails were painted in Russia’s red, white and royal blue, explained that a Dowcal Heat Transfer Fluid was being used inside it to help maintain the temperature of the ice.

    “In the past, it was Russian local material, but we were able to prove our material had anti-corrosive agents that would protect the machine longer,” Irkha said. “For speedskating, you need a certain temperature (for the ice). For hockey, another. This gives you an ability to do that.”

    She walked inside the venue and paused when she reached the granite floor inside the main concourses. Windows stretched from the floor to the ceiling behind her offering views of the Black Sea. She dragged the toe of her right foot across the granite floor and explained that Dow products were used in the grout between the tiles. Its chemicals and additives also were used in the cement underneath the venue to make it smooth and “increase the hardness of the ice surface.”

    She then pointed to the ceiling — a lattice-work of arching steel beams coated in white paint — and explained that the Dow coating used on those paints had beat out coatings made with competitors’ products. The construction company installed the beams and coated them first, before construction was completed, so they needed to coat them with a material that would protect them from the weather while construction continued. It tested several companies’ products before choosing a coating with Dow product in it, Irkha said.

    She strode up a ramp and pushed open a door to a 28-person suite on the second level of the arena. She walked to the veranda and stood beside one of 587 plush suite seats that ringed the 12,000-seat arena.

    “They needed seats that could absorb sound,” Irkha said. “First it was a competitor’s solutions for the seats, but we won this. Our customer in Poland, we were able to promise these seats had a certain amount of noise canceling because when it’s hockey, you need to cancel the noise for broadcasters.”

    The seats contain Dow’s Specflex polyurethane. It was one of a half-dozen Dow products that Dow’s Olympic team was able to get into the Bolshoy arena. For Irkha, that’s a tremendous accomplishment because it both helps her company and her country in its effort to host its first Olympics since 1980.

    “It’s developing of sport, and we’re proud of that,” Irkha said. “You’re honored you’re able to help, but you hope as a person everything is OK. It’s two feelings.”

    Tags: Russia, Olympics
  • Oshie merchandise in hot demand after shootout with Russia

    T.J. Oshie scores against the Russians on Saturday.
    T.J. Oshie’s shootout performance against Russia last week made him a star of the Games, and apparel with his name has been selling fast.

    Fanatics.com, the largest online retailer of licensed sports merchandise, sold out of USA Hockey T-shirts with Oshie’s name within hours of the game (http://tinyurl.com/kn7myle). It replenished the supply, and demand for Oshie merchandise remains strong. His name has been the No. 1-searched term on Fanatics.com since Saturday.

    Residents from New York City bought the most USA Hockey gear with Oshie’s name on it. Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Boston followed.

    But it wasn’t just USA Hockey shirts that sold. More merchandise of the St. Louis Blues, where Oshie plays, sold Saturday than any other day in the site’s history.

    The top-selling item on Fanatics.com remains the blue “Go USA” mittens that the U.S. Olympic Committee made for the Sochi Games.

    Tags: Russia, Hockey, Olympics
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