• BMW engineering pushes U.S. bobsled team to the top

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Tags: IOC, Coca-Cola, Olympics, Russia
  • Farrington, Evolution Marketing look to cash in after gold medal

    Surprise halfpipe gold-medalist Kaitlyn Farrington
    GETTY IMAGES
    In January, Kaitlyn Farrington wasn’t sure if she would be an Olympian. One month and one gold medal later, Farrington is on the verge of becoming a household name in America.

    On the heels of her gold-medal run in the women’s halfpipe on Wednesday, Farrington went through the “car wash” of media appearances with NBC and other networks. There are now talks of her appearing on a popular late night and morning show when she returns to the U.S. next week, according to Joshua Schwartz of Evolution Marketing and Management, who has worked with Farrington since 2009.

    Farrington was the final woman named to the U.S. snowboarding team in January, but she was able to reach the halfpipe finals and surprisingly defeated a field that included the previous three Olympic gold medalists, including teammates Kelly Clark and Hannah Teter.

    Both Clark and Teter used their gold medal wins to catapult their careers to greater exposure beyond the snowboarding community, a difficult feat for an Olympic athlete. Notably, Teter appeared in Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue and Ben & Jerry’s developed a new ice cream flavor in her honor.

    It remains to be seen if Farrington can capitalize on her golden moment. If her social media accounts are any indication, she’s well on her way. Farrington has gained more than 10,000 Twitter and 14,000 Instagram followers since winning gold.

    “I think the opportunity is definitely still there,” Schwartz said. “I think it’s a little more difficult because of the addition of all these X Games-type sports, so you have a lot of good-looking, cool athletes out there right now that aren’t the mold of the traditional Olympic sports. It can be a little more difficult to cut through the clutter, I guess.”

    Farrington currently has relationships with Kellogg’s Cheez-It brand, Giro helmets and goggles, Gnu snowboards, Monster Energy and The North Face. Schwartz already has spoken with The North Face and Kellogg’s about ways to leverage Farrington’s gold medal into increased marketing opportunities.

    “It’s an interesting story because her backstory is now coming out, and these are things that we’ve known for four years knocking on peoples’ doors trying to tell that story,” Schwartz said of Farrington's buildup to the Games, which included her family selling cattle from their farm to pay for her snowboarding career. “But it comes a lot easier when you become an Olympic gold medalist.”

    Tags: Olympics
  • For figure skating fans, and in-arena florist, flowers are part of the fun

    A volunteer gathers flowers from the Olympic ice.
    GETTY IMAGES
    In the concourse of the Iceberg Skating Palace, a semi-circle of bouquets rose out of vases in front of a small alcove in the arena. A couple walked over and plucked a cellophane-wrapped arrangement of orange Gerbera daisies.

    Jizayz Emyon, who was managing the pop-up florist, walked over and collected 500 rubles (about $15) from them. Then he turned around and began placing more bouquets on a white folding table.

    “We were very busy today because it’s Valentine’s Day,” Emyon said. “Today are more flowers we sell.”

    The Iceberg Skating Palace is a rarity in sports. At a time when NFL stadiums are looking to add WiFi and serve sushi, it’s opted for a different amenity to enhance the fan experience — a pop-up florist that sells bouquets to men who need a last-minute Valentine’s Day gift and figure skating fans who toss flowers on the ice following performances by skaters like China’s Yan Han and Team USA’s Jeremy Abbott.

    The pop-up florist sells about 50 bouquets a day. Bouquets cost 500 rubles and a single rose costs 200 rubles ($6). The shop usually makes $700 a day.

    Tossing flowers onto the ice after a figure skating performance has a long history. Red roses were the gift of choice in the 1980s and ’90s. Bouquets that are tossed today have to be wrapped in cellophane to prevent petals from falling off and damaging the ice.

    Watching figure skating on TV, it’s easy to think that fans come prepared, bringing flowers to the event the same way Detroit Red Wings fans bring squid to Joe Louis Arena. But in Sochi, they have the option to buy flowers from Emyon between sessions.

    Emyon didn’t know how his boss, who doesn’t own a floral shop, won a contract to sell flowers at the arena. He and three other employees were just there to sell as many flowers as possible.

    “We’ll be here every day figure skating is open,” he said.

    Sales are usually dictated by the popularity of a skater. They were particularly busy during the first weekend of the Games when Russia’s figure skating team wowed the crowd and won a gold medal in the team event.

    But Emyon said that was nothing compared to Valentine’s Day. On Valentine’s Day, he could pitch flowers not only to figure skating fans but any man who happened to walk by his booth.

     “Don’t you like anyone?” he asks, looking out over the concourse and trying to find a way to score one more sale. He grins. “You sure?”

    Tags: Figure Skating, Olympics
  • NBC’s Wednesday night rating lower compared to 2010 telecast

    NBC finished with a 12.1 fast-national rating and 20.8 million viewers for Wednesday night’s Olympic coverage, which featured U.S. speedskater Shani Davis’ attempt at a third straight gold medal in the 1,000-meter event. Also featured in the telecast were gold-medal finals for men’s nordic combined (individual K-95), women’s alpine skiing (downhill), pairs figure skating and women’s snowboarding (halfpipe).

    The audience on Wednesday night was NBC’s lowest for the Sochi Games in prime time to date. The corresponding night in Vancouver earned a 16.7 rating, while in Turin in 2006 it drew an 11.3. Through six nights, NBC’s 14.0 average rating is down 6 percent compared to 2010, but up 12 percent compared to 2006.

    Tags: NBC, Olympics
  • IOC praises Sochi 2014 for successful first week

    SBJ Podcast:
    SBJ's Tripp Mickle and Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch assess the first week of the Sochi Olympics.

    Sochi 2014 organizers on Friday won high praise from the International Olympic Committee for completing a successful first week that was free of transportation and security issues and full of good weather and active venues.

    “From day one when they turned the key to start last Thursday, we have been only happy with what did happen with the organization and fluidity of the operations,” said Gilbert Felli, the IOC’s executive director of the Olympic Games. “We have been able also to see that where little issues didn’t work fully as expected at the beginning, it has been corrected very quickly. … We are pleased.”

    Felli said that transportation has been “on time, precise” and easy to navigate; the atmosphere in venues is “great;” and the weather, which has been sunny and in the 60s, is “beautiful,” which makes operations easier.
    Sochi: By The Numbers
    1 million tickets sold
    1.3 million spectators transported
    79 events completed
    37 of 98 medals awarded

    Sochi 2104 has sold 1 million tickets for competition so far and transported 1.3 million spectators (see chart). As of Thursday morning local time, it had completed 79 events and awarded 37 of the 98 medals that will be given out for the Olympics.

    Sochi has not been without its critics. Norwegian IOC member and marketing commission chair Gerhard Heiberg told the Associated Press that he was disappointed by the lack of atmosphere in the venues.

    “The TV pictures are wonderful, the competitions are wonderful, the venues are great, but I feel a bit the lack of enthusiasm and the joy of sports,” Heiberg said this week.

    Felli acknowledged concerns before the Games about the atmosphere but said the IOC had been pleased with the enthusiasm of the spectators.

    “The two or three first days of the Games people are looking at each other trying to understand what has happened and then they start to mix, to go together, and then the atmosphere starts to create, so that’s in every Games a bit the same,” Felli said.

    Tags: IOC, Olympics, Russia
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