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February 21, 2014 10:42 AM
U.S. team members initially pointed to Under Armour's suit for the team's poor performance.
“We’re saying, ‘Let’s do a deep dive into this,’” Plant said. “We can’t do it internally. We have to bring in external resources.”
Plant said that the organization will bring in sports scientists and sports physiologists as well as speedskating greats like Bonnie Blair. Collectively, they’ll evaluate what went wrong at the Sochi Games.
The U.S. Speedskating team came into Sochi expecting long-tack skaters like Heather Richardson and Shani Davis to medal. Instead, the Dutch team repeatedly swept the podium. It’s the third straight Olympics in which the U.S. long-track medal count has decreased, and the overall medal count between long- and short-track races will be the U.S. team’s lowest since at least 1998.
Plant compares the American’s performance to the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. The Broncos had a great year, as U.S. Speedskating did, but they fell short on football’s biggest stage.
The U.S. team’s failure to meet expectations was so confusing to team members that they initially blamed new suits developed by sponsor Under Armour before the Games. They had never competed in the suits and some felt like they were holding the team back. Eventually, U.S. Speedskating switched to an old Under Armour suit, but the results were the same.
The Wall Street Journal put two stories about the suits on its front page, and the subject of the suits dominated conversation. But Plant said that the team is aware that the outfits weren’t the issue, and he hopes Under Armour will continue to sponsor the team.
“Deep down we know it wasn’t the suits,” he said. “Under Armour is an American company supporting an American team. They’re not quitters and neither are we.”
The U.S. Speedskating team still had a few more shots to medal when Plant spoke. The Atlanta Braves executive was en route to a meeting with the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce about the team’s planned relocation to Cobb County. He returned to the U.S. early this week and has spent his days working on the Braves and nights working on speedskating.
Plant, a member of the 1980 U.S. Speedskating team, joined the organization as president less than a year ago. U.S. Speedskating was just coming out of a coaching abuse scandal, and it’s financial performance had left it in debt.
As president, Plant set about overhauling the governance structure by writing new bylaws and shifting power from volunteers to board members, writing new bylaws. He hired former U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association chief marketer Ted Morris as executive director last fall, and Morris worked to sign new partners such as BMW, TD Ameritrade and Liberty Mutual.
But Plant said the one thing he didn’t begin thoroughly evaluating was the organization’s sports programs and planning.
“Did I focus the last nine months on high performance?” he asked. “Not at all. That (volunteer meddling) got us into this situation. Volunteers were getting involved in what the coaches were doing.”
Plant said he doesn’t expect to get heavily involved in performance issues after the Sochi Games, but he hopes that the evaluation committee he creates to review the performance in Sochi will result in changes to how the U.S. prepares for Pyeongchang in 2018.
“The last piece of the puzzle (performance) is what encourages me,” Plant said. “I’m confident we’ll make some announcements soon that show that.”
February 21, 2014 09:50 AM
Marketing executive Scott McCune is working his last Olympics with Coke after 16 years.
■ What is your fondest Olympic memory?
McCUNE: It is when we took the Olympic flame around the world and were in Capetown, South Africa, in a shanty town. I have a picture of a young South African kid, barefoot, torn shirt and shorts, running with the torch with a huge smile. It symbolized not only the Olympic movement but also Coca-Cola. Here was a shantytown, and Coca-Cola brought the Olympic flame to them and the whole town lit up with huge smiles.
■ What’s the hardest thing about preparing for an Olympics from a marketing perspective?
McCUNE: From a marketing perspective, one of the challenges is from a global perspective coming up with a core idea and story that’s relevant not just in the host country but also around the world, if you really want to scale, build it once and use it multiple times. Continually coming up with new ideas to bring the brand to life. For example, the torch relay. How do you continue to evolve that? In London, we put the music behind it. In Sochi, we emphasized active living.
■ What’s the biggest challenge operationally?
McCUNE: Coca-Cola has a very good system in place. It carries learnings forward from one Olympics to the next. For example, our Coca-Cola team from Korea, which hosts the 2018 Olympics, is here on the ground with a future Olympic host program. They come to a three-month-out review with our Sochi team. They come and observe the Olympics. Then they will come to an after-action review where we weed out what worked, what didn’t work and what we can do next. That helps, especially when you have to service 40 different venues, the Athletes’ Village and all the other challenging logistics.
■ What Olympics has been the most impactful for Coke’s business?
McCUNE: Three come to mind. China and the Beijing Olympics because of what it allowed us to do in the country. London, where we had 115 countries take a global campaign and activate it, was satisfying. Then, quite frankly, Sochi, from a Russian business standpoint, has allowed us to take leadership.
■ What do new sponsors have the hardest time understanding when they come into the Olympics?
McCUNE: The complexity of the Olympic movement. It’s not just the IOC, the organizing committees, the national Olympic committees, the federations. Sometimes that’s a surprise. Perhaps we sponsors don’t fully understand the power of leveraging the Olympics beyond a marketing platform. It can be a platform to do a lot of things for your business beyond marketing.
■ All Olympics are difficult. What sticks out in your mind as a difficult Olympic moment?
McCUNE: In Nagano, during the Olympic torch relay. We used Georgia O’Keeffe. It’s a big brand in Japan. It was the first time we’d never used brand Coke on the torch. Our CMO Sergio (Zyman) was coming to see the torch. The drop-off point was an athlete club. Coca-Cola Japan, they roll out the red carpet. I’m in a car with the activation guy (with Coca-Cola Japan), Takeo Masaoka, and we drive up and there’s a Pepsi truck parked there delivering product. Masaoka went white. We go inside and we talk to the Pepsi guys loading product. Masaoka gets in the Pepsi truck and drives it around the back. Sergio shows up and it’s gone. That’s a memory I will never forget.
February 21, 2014 09:30 AM
Just as NBC posted its strong streaming numbers in the U.S. for Thursday's Olympic women's ice hockey gold-medal game, the CBC in Canada set its own record for the event.
The CBC's streaming audience of 325,000 unique users on mobile and desktop devices is the highest digital audience ever for any live event in network history. And given Canada's total population of about 35 million, the digital audience represented nearly 1 percent of the entire country.
NBC's number of 1.2 million uniques for Thursday’s game, while certainly historic in its own right, comparatively represented about three-tenths of 1 percent of the U.S. total population of about 315 million.
February 21, 2014 09:01 AM
Despite not medaling in Sochi, Shaun White still gained more than 111,000 Twitter followers.
Among U.S. athletes, Shaun White continues to lead all non-professional hockey players with more than 111,000 new followers despite not medaling in Sochi. Silver-medalist freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy used his notable efforts to help adopt stray dogs from Sochi to supplement his Olympic popularity to the tune of almost 93,000 new followers.
While professional hockey players weren’t being tracked, the overnight success of shootout star T.J. Oshie was impossible to ignore. Since the Games began, the St. Louis Blues star has added more than 158,000 new followers. That would place him first among all Olympians tracked. In comparison, the other shootout hero, goalie Jonathan Quick, only added 12,000 new followers.
Rounding out the leaderboard with more than 50,000 new followers since the Sochi Games began were snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg, figure skaters Gracie Gold and Meryl Davis, and freestyle skier Nick Goepper.
Twitter followers were measured on Feb. 5 and again on Feb. 20. Professional hockey players were not included in this data.
Top 20 U.S. Olympians in Sochi
RANK Top 20 Most Additions Twitter Handle Feb. 5 - Twitter Followers Feb. 20 - Twitter Followers ADDITIONS INDIVIDUAL MEDAL 1 Shaun White @shaun_white 1,258,623 1,369,667 111,044 2 Gus Kenworthy @guskenworthy 13,606 106,520 92,914 SILVER 3 Sage Kotsenburg @sagekotsenburg 7,425 69,549 62,124 GOLD 4 Gracie Gold @GraceEGold 25,286 82,461 57,175 5 Nick Goepper @NickGoepper 11,164 64,859 53,695 BRONZE 6 Meryl Davis @Meryl_Davis 20,873 73,742 52,869 GOLD 7 Bode Miller @MillerBode 37,407 84,211 46,804 BRONZE 8 Ashley Wagner @AshWagner2010 29,714 71,540 41,826 9 Charlie White @CharlieaWhite 18,435 58,532 40,097 GOLD 10 Jamie Anderson @Jme_Anderson 11,490 47,634 36,144 GOLD 11 Jason Brown @jasonbskates 10,013 38,563 28,550 12 Joss Christensen @josschristensen 8,724 28,799 20,075 GOLD 13 Julia Mancuso @JuliaMancuso 54,016 73,201 19,185 BRONZE 14 Kaitlyn Farrington @KaitlynFarr 2,370 16,914 14,544 GOLD 15 Hillary Knight @Hilary_Knight 14,785 28,799 14,014 16 Bobby Brown @Bobby_Brown1 33,189 47,125 13,936 17 Jeremy Abbott @jeremyabbottpcf 26,240 40,128 13,888 18 Noelle Pikus Pace @noellepikuspace 2,059 15,395 13,336 SILVER 19 Lolo Jones @lolojones 378,543 391,165 12,622 20 Johnny Quinn @JohnnyQuinnUSA 14,073 26,491 12,418
February 21, 2014 09:00 AM
NBC Sports said late Thursday that it generated 1.2 million unique users for its digital stream of the Olympic women's ice hockey gold-medal game between the U.S. and Canada, the largest audience for any sports event in the history of NBC Sports Digital with the exception of Super Bowl XLVI two years ago.
That Super Bowl drew 2.1 million unique users, at the time the most-watched U.S. sports event online ever. The hockey game also drew 34.9 million minutes of consumption. The streaming audience figures from Thursday will likely be challenged, if not surpassed, by Friday's men's semifinal Olympic hockey game between the U.S. and Canada.
February 20, 2014 07:13 PM
Each Olympic hockey game that Getty Images shoots produces roughly 1,000 images, according to staff photographer Bruce Bennett.
■ What’s the biggest difference between shooting an Olympics and shooting an NHL game?
BENNETT: We’re dealing with a larger ice surface. Anticipating the plays forwards and defensemen will make in games on an international surface takes a little while. There are so many more photographers at these events, and that changes the dynamics as well.
■ How many more photographers?
BENNETT: Let’s start with the women’s games. For a typical (Olympic) women’s (hockey) game, you might have 30 or 40 photographers. An NHL game has five to 10. The men’s final will have about 100 photographers. For the Stanley Cup final, you might have 30.
■ Do you get to photograph anything other than hockey?
BENNETT: In Vancouver, I had some days to walk around the city and shoot some scenics and get some atmosphere shots, but my sole focus is to make sure the hockey arenas are taken care of.
■ How many photographs will shoot in an average day?
BENNETT: It appears that all the days I shoot there will be two or three games a day, and each game will have almost 1,000 images shot handheld. Within 180 seconds, we can have images out and back to our editors and out for publication. Key moments get out extremely quickly.
■ What’s the most interesting thing about being a photographer at the Olympics?
BENNETT: The enthusiasm on players’ faces. These players want to participate. They want to play for their country. There are a lot of National Hockey League games where players don’t seem completely engaged. But the whole atmosphere — fans, players, camaraderie — it shows in the photos. It’s the best hockey you’ll see in four years.
■ What makes for a great Olympic photo?
BENNETT: What we look for when it comes our way is the jubilation and dejection in the same photograph. I prefer the ice-level positions so that you can see faces. The best hockey photographs are when you can see players’ expressions and the intensity. If you can get celebration and dejection in the same shot, that’s a winner for you.
February 20, 2014 12:58 PM
The all-time record still belongs to the Giants-Patriots Super Bowl XLVI stream in 2012, which drew 2.1 million uniques. The previous Olympic record was 682,806 uniques for the U.S.-Japan women’s soccer gold-medal match during the 2012 London Games (see chart, below).
For a comparison to streams on ESPN3, the U.S.-Czech Republic match would rank second all-time behind only 865,729 uniques for the U.S.-Algeria pool-play match from the 2010 FIFA World Cup. ESPN3’s second-best event was 772,788 uniques for the Florida State-Auburn BCS National Championship game last month.
TOP OLYMPIC EVENT STREAMS FOR NBC SPORTS AMONG UNIQUESDATE
EVENTUNIQUE STREAMS2/19/14 Men's hockey quarterfinal: U.S.-Czech Republic798,3378/9/12 Women's soccer gold-medal match: U.S.-Japan682,8062/15/14 Men's hockey pool play: U.S.-Russia598,5522/11/14 Men's snowboard halfpipe gold medal (Shaun White)595,7648/2/12 Men's swimming (200-meter IM/Michael Phelps)423,681
February 20, 2014 10:32 AM
Tuesday night’s coverage featured gold-medal finals for women’s alpine skiing (giant slalom), men’s freestyle skiing (halfpipe), men’s snowboarding (snowboard cross) and women’s short-track speedskating (3,000 meter relay). Also featured was the women’s bobsled competition. The comparable night during both the 2010 Vancouver and 2006 Turin Games featured the ladies’ figure skating short program. That event aired last night on NBC.
The lower rating also brings the Sochi average closer to Turin. NBC is averaging a 13.0 rating through 12 nights, up 4 percent from Turin but down 8 percent from Vancouver.
February 20, 2014 09:08 AM
SBJ's Tripp Mickle and Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo's Puck Daddy
■ "Everything is being built right as we get there, and that's exactly what Sochi is. Literally as you walk into the hotels or the venues, you hear saws. … Russians are like a people who cram for tests. … I don't know if a lot of people who were harsh about it don't want to acknowledge that they got their stuff together, but they have."
■ "Russia looks like the middle of Pennsylvania. It looks exactly like Pennsyltucky. You go up to the Poconos where the mountains are. It's all flat. There's a lot of quarries and rocks and random streams and tiny houses in the distance. It looks exactly like Pennsylvania, which is not what I expected."
■ "From a pop culture perspective, what's the thing I'd least expect to see in the Athletes' Village? Well, I saw it — a 'Rambo' video game. … Did they not get a chance to get the 'Red Dawn' video game or 'Rocky IV' video game?"
February 20, 2014 09:06 AM
The company has been using the Olympics to market its brand in Russia the last five years, and over that time it saw an increase in volume, brand preference and, perhaps most importantly, brand preference among Russian teens, which is a key demographic.
“The Olympics have definitely been a huge success in Russia,” said Emmanuel Seuge, Coca-Cola’s vice president of global alliances and ventures. “We had a good end of the year in Russia and activation started nine months ago in Russia.”
Scott McCune, Coca-Cola vice president of global partnerships and experiential marketing, said that the other thing the Olympics had done was boost Coca-Cola’s sales and stature in southern Russia. The company has long been a market leader in the soft-drink category in Russia, but it trailed Pepsi in the south of the country.
“Sochi has allowed us to take leadership because of the five-year build-up,” McCune said.
Coca-Cola has a large, red showcase pavilion in the Olympic Park in Sochi. More than 2,500 spectators a day are coming through the venue. The showcase emphasizes healthy and active living.
It features two domes that can be seen by spectators as they exit the train station. One of the domes highlights Coke’s role in the Olympic Torch relay and talks about the history of the company in Russia. The second is interactive and encourages guests to live active lifestyles.
Coca-Cola tends to put less emphasis on the Winter Games than it does on the Summer Olympics. It is only activating in 10 to 15 markets worldwide, and its focus around Sochi has been growing its business in Russia.
In an earnings call last week, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent said that the company last year saw its business achieve an “all-time high market share for non-alcoholic, ready-to-drink beverages.”