• Sochi Games help McDonald’s expand business in Russia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    What’s your experience so far here in Sochi?

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

    Is there an event you’re excited about?

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

    Tags: Citibank, Olympics
  • USA Hockey signs three new deals, boosts revenue to $2.75M

    USA Hockey signed three new sponsorships before the Sochi Games, helping boost corporate revenue to $2.75 million for the year.

    The new sponsors include Got Milk, STX Hockey and Proctor & Gamble’s Gillette and Bounty brands. Liberty Mutual, an existing sponsor, expanded its deal to include a presenting sponsorship of a series of women’s hockey exhibition games.

    All of the sponsors are featuring members of USA Hockey in marketing and promotions around the Games. Gillette is working with Ryan Suter, Bounty with Julie Chu, Got Milk with Zach Parise, and STX Hockey with Hillary Knight. Liberty Mutual is working with Rico Roman and Monique Lamoureux.

    The deals collectively pushed USA Hockey’s annual corporate revenue up 23 percent from where it was during the 2010 Vancouver Games.
    New USA Hockey sponsors
    Gillette (Ryan Suter)
    Bounty (Julie Chu)
    Got Chocolate Milk (Zach Parise)
    STX Hockey (Hilary Knight)

    “Looking at this Olympic year, people have a good memory of Vancouver, and the overall strength of the NHL and high level of U.S. players helped us,” said Lee Meyer, USA Hockey’s senior director of marketing.

    USA Hockey is one of the only U.S. national governing bodies to restrict its athletes from appearing in uniform for advertising and marketing with a company that doesn’t sponsor its team. That rule, which is written into its player contracts, helped it negotiate several new deals with companies looking to feature its athletes.

    The organization also allows companies to pay for “image rights” to feature its jerseys on hockey players it uses in campaigns. Citibank (Chu and Roman), BP (Chu), Chobani (Parise and Roman), McDonald’s (Patrick Kane) and Kellogg’s (Jim Craig) all paid for image rights ahead of the Sochi Games.

    “This is way, way beyond what we’ve ever had before in terms of using our athletes and our jerseys,” Meyer said.

    In addition to those companies featuring USA Hockey athletes, the organization’s beer partner, Labatt, developed special-edition jersey cans featuring this year’s Team USA jersey.

    The jersey has been one of the best-selling jerseys in USA Hockey history. The organization’s merchandise revenue is up 80 percent from the Vancouver Games, and the increase has been driven primarily by jersey sales, Meyer said. He added, “That’s a huge statement when you think of Vancouver being a North American Olympics. It’s gigantic.”

    Tags: Hockey, Gillette, Olympics
  • TV Review: NHL Network debuts show devoted to Sochi Games

    NHL Network on Wednesday afternoon debuted its special highlight show for the men’s hockey competition at the Sochi Games, "NHL Tonight: 2014 Sochi Edition."

    With both the U.S. and Canada playing their opening games Thursday, a large portion of the 30-minute show was dedicated to the goalie situation for the two countries. Jonathan Quick of the U.S. is going to start the opening game tomorrow against Slovakia, while Canada is going with Carey Price against Norway and Roberto Luongo on Friday against Slovenia. The moves are noteworthy in that both Miller and Luongo started for their countries in the 2010 Vancouver Games.

    NHL Network’s Mike Johnson noted from the network’s Toronto studio that there is not a “clear-cut 1 and 2 situation” with the U.S. While Quick has been “really hot as of late,” Johnson thought Miller would get the call given that he “was the incumbent.” He said, “You can’t go wrong with Jonathan Quick, one of the best goalies in the world. But I thought Ryan Miller, given his season and his track record at the Olympics, would be given strong consideration.”  The network’s E.J. Hradek said, “I think they were with Quick from the get-go here.”

    The move to go with Price for Canada’s opening game was called the “smart decision” by Johnson. Price was named the NHL’s Player of the Week last week, and Johnson noted Canada coach Mike Babcock is “going with the better, hotter goalie right now.” Johnson: “Quite frankly, he’s just playing better than Roberto Luongo right now. He’s the better option, so you have to give him that first start.”

    The show aired interviews with the captains for the two teams — Jeremy Roenick talked to Zach Parise of the U.S., while Dan Rosen caught up with Canada’s Jonathan Toews. Hradek and Johnson also broke down the players to watch for the countries’ opening games.

    While most of the talk centered on the U.S. and Canadian teams — understandable considering NHL Network airs in both countries — the rest of the tournament was not ignored. Hradek and Johnson broke down full highlights of Wednesday’s two games from Group C — Czech Republic-Sweden and Latvia-Switzerland. Also, NHL Network’s Kathryn Tappen, who was broadcasting from the Bolstoy Ice Dome in Sochi, reported on Russia’ final practice before its game Thursday against Slovenia. She noted it was a “serious” affair and that there were “not a lot a smiles” on the faces of the players from the home team.

    There was no mention of the women’s tournament at all, somewhat surprising considering that Canada defeated the U.S. Wednesday in a controversial 3-2 game.

    Tappen promoted the prime-time Olympic coverage on both NBC and CBC coming out of two separate commercial breaks.

    Tags: NHL, Hockey, Media, Olympics
  • WMG’s Wallace scores unlikely coup with halfpipe gold medalist

    Wasserman Media Group's Circe Wallace hugs Iouri Podladtchikov after his gold medal.
    Moments after Shaun White fell in his final run and Iouri Podladtchikov won the gold medal in men’s halfpipe, Wasserman Media Group’s Circe Wallace pushed her way through a barricade at the base of the pipe and gave him a hug.

    “You did it!” she said, her eyes wide with disbelief. “I can’t believe it you f---king did it”

    Wallace’s disbelief was genuine. No one at the halfpipe thought Shaun White’s reign atop the medal podium would end. Not her. Not Podladtchikov. Not U.S. Snowboarding.

    The likelihood White would three-peat was so great and concerns about security in Sochi so were so high that Wallace nearly decided not to come to the Winter Games.

    “I am so happy I came,” she said later. “I mean, he toppled the throne.”

    Wallace has been representing snowboarders for 15 years, and Podladtchikov — who goes by the nickname “I-Pod” — is her second gold medalist. She also represents Australian Torah Bright, who won the women’s halfpipe gold in 2010. But Podladtchikov’s gold medal is one she and everyone else will remember forever because it brought an end to White’s reign in Olympic halfpipe.

    As Podladtchikov wove his way through a media area, fielding questions from broadcasters and print journalists, Wallace stood off to the side and listened. Her blonde hair was pulled back in a pony tail. She had on a black puffy coat, black jeans and black leather biker gloves with silver buckles at her wrists.

    “This is kind of a big deal,” she said. “Shaun’s had it for so long. It’s anyone’s game for second or third usually, but to win ….” She paused, looked at Podladtchikov and shook her head with disbelief. “It’s huge!”

    Wallace wasn’t sure what endorsement opportunities there might be for Podladtchikov, but she’s optimistic that some will come through. He already has deals with Quiksilver, Vans, Monster Energy and GoPro. She plans to work with his coach, Marco Bruni, and look for opportunities with U.S., European and Russian companies.

    'I-Pod' was able to end Shaun White's reign in Olympic halfpipe.
    Podladtchikov was born in Russia and moved to Switzerland at a young age. He rides for the Swiss team, but he is known well enough in Russia that fans chanted “Ruuu-sii-yaaa! Ruuu-sii-yaaa!” when he won.

    “It remains to be seen what the interest will be (in Russia), but the hope is it’s a global story,” said Wallace, who has represented Podladtchikov since 2006, when he was 17 years old. “He speaks the language. He loves Russia. He says he’s Russian in his heart. He rides with the Swiss team.”

    When asked what her selling point for Podladtchikov was, Wallace shrugged and turned his way. He was still chattering away with the press about how he never thought he would win.

    “Look at him,” she said. “His cheek bones. Winning in Russia. Beating Shaun. Yeah, beating Shaun.”

    A woman with the International Olympic Committee tapped Wallace on the shoulder and looked toward Podladtchikov.

    “You want me to get him?” Wallace asked. She reached over and grabbed his arm. It was time for his drug testing.

    “OK,” she said, “let’s go.”

    As she led him through a gated corral away from the media, Podladtchikov threw his head back and roared. Wallace glanced back at him over her shoulder. She shook her head. No way. No freaking way.

    Tags: Wasserman Media Group, Olympics
  • Put me in, Coach: Matt Lauer gets called up during ‘Today’

    NBC's Matt Lauer
    It was about 5 p.m. in Sochi yesterday when Bob Costas called NBC Olympics Executive Producer Jim Bell and told him he couldn’t host that night’s broadcast. Bell immediately texted “Today” host Matt Lauer, who was on the air.

    “Congratulations. You’re on today.”

    Lauer finished the “Today” show and spent the evening preparing to host his first prime-time Olympics broadcast by watching video of old prime-time shows.

    “He hadn’t been able to watch them and wanted to get a sense of it,” Bell said. “He kind of poured himself into it for the next couple of hours and then we put on the show. He was great last night. He was incredible.”

    Lauer will host the prime-time broadcast again tonight. Costas let Bell know around 5 p.m. in Sochi that he wouldn’t be able to do it. He is still battling an eye infection that makes it difficult for him to see. He called Lauer during the “Today” show broadcast and told Lauer he’d be hosting again.

    “Matt’s the ultimate team player and consummate professional,” said NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus. “He’s filled in more than ably. And any number of people could have filled in — Dan (Patrick) or Al Michaels, Brian Williams — any of the Mount Rushmore of broadcasters at the company. Matt did an excellent job and will do it again tonight.”

    Bell, who produced the “Today” show until 2012, said the call from Costas made him feel like USA Basketball coach Chuck Daly with the 1992 Dream Team.

    “I looked down the bench and I basically had to put one hall of famer in for another,” he said.

    Tags: NBC, Olympics, Media
  • Jake Burton: ‘Sport is healthy’ amid reports of snowboarding’s decline

    Burton Snowboards founder and CEO Jake Burton
    Good snow on the East Coast has offset a bad winter on the West Coast, helping Burton Snowboards to increase snowboard and apparel sales this year, founder and CEO Jake Burton said prior to Tuesday night’s halfpipe competition at the Olympics.

    News reports two years ago suggested the sport had peaked in popularity and used data showing the decline in snowboarding participation over the last decade. But Burton Snowboards founder said that was “bullshit.”

    “The sport is healthy, and the business is doing great, but it’s not as easy as it used to be,” Burton said. “We’re impacted more than ever by weather and the economy.”

    The European economy has been particularly problematic for Burton’s company. Youth unemployment in some European countries is 50 percent, and that’s been a challenge for snowboarding’s business.

    “Snowboarders are young,” he said. “They’re punished by the economy.”

    SBJ Podcast:
    SBJ Olympics writer Tripp Mickle talks with Nick Sargent, head of global alliance and partnerships for Burton Snowboards, at the bottom of the halfpipe at the Sochi Games.

    Burton has been in Russia for the last week for the Olympics. The brand set up a lounge and pop-up shop at the top of the slopestyle course. It signed a lease to open a store at Rosa Khutor, the new resort built for the Olympics, after the Games.

    Burton Snowboards is sponsoring more than 25 athletes participating in the Sochi Games.
    “We’re so stoked to have this,” said Burton, who founded Burton Snowboards in 1977. “I first came here 10 years ago. There was nothing. When you walked into Krasnaya Polyana (the town where Rosa Khutor is based), there was a monkey that would shake you down for money. Now, there’s a resort. In the States, when we opened new mountains, the sport grew. Here, there’s a potential for the same.”

    Snowboarding is participating in its fifth Olympic Games, and Burton Snowboards outfitted the U.S. and Finnish snowboard teams and sponsored more than 25 snowboarders participating in the Games.

    Burton, 59, said the Olympics usually provide a small boost to the company’s e-commerce business and retailers. But the real upside is the exposure it provides to future participants.

    “The Olympics lights up kids and all kinds of people,” Burton said. “If they were thinking about snowboarding, this might push them over the ledge.”

    Burton Snowboards will follow the Olympics with its U.S. Open of Snowboarding in Vail March 3-8. The company’s founder said it remains committed to its Open Series, a group of contests it holds annually, but will keep the events in its most important markets.

    “I don’t think we’re going to grow it,” Burton said. “We’ll focus on Europe, the U.S. and do an event in Japan.”

    Tags: Burton Snowboards, Olympics
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