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February 19, 2014 10:34 AM
In Sochi, Visa has taken the concept of congratulating Olympians and digitized it. The company has a team spread across offices in Sochi, New York and San Francisco working to create congratulatory graphics and videos that it’s posting on Twitter, Facebook and Vine.
The group in Sochi is working out of the Radisson Blu and includes some of the graphics people from Visa’s media agencies. They track events, make an image, send it to staff in New York for approval and then post it to Twitter’s official Twitter feed.
It has done 20 celebratory posts for 12 athletes since the Games began. The posts collectively have garnered 14 million worldwide interactions — likes, retweets and other engagements.
A graphic featuring Korean Olympian Lee Sang-hwa received 45,000 likes on Facebook; a Japan-signed Sara Takanashi image was one of the top-tweeted images in the country, with 4,425 retweets and 3,257 favorites; and a ski-jumping Vine video that the Visa team made was viewed more than 500,000 times.
It is the first time Visa has had a digital team devoted to developing content during the Games. For London, it developed most of its digital content before the Games began.
Visa's digital ads, like after the U.S. sweep in men's ski slopestyle, have generated 14 million interactions online.
Fort said that Visa didn’t consider social media a valuable brand-building tool at past Olympics. For Sochi, though, that’s where it concentrated its efforts and energy. He said it allows the brand to reach consumers and add to their enjoyment of the Games, which bolsters their appreciation of Visa.
Shortly after the U.S. ski slopestyle team swept the podium, Visa posted an image that said “Star-Spangled Sweep” above three raised U.S. flags. The Visa logo is in the bottom corner. The image was retweeted more than 3,600 times. (To access the Twitter page: https://twitter.com/Visa/status/434174479380402176.)
“When things happen, we’ve been fast to react,” Fort said. “What’s surprised me is I see a lot of what looks like pre-written content (from other sponsors and athletes). We’ve done a pretty good job of understanding what happens, and if the athlete wins or loses or country wins or loses, we are there with them.”
Fort said the value of having a digital operation in Sochi was most evident the first week of the Games. More than 20 Japanese Visa customers who won trips to the Olympics weren’t able to leave for Sochi because of a snowstorm. They arrived on day three of a four-day trip. Takanashi signed a photo for them and Visa’s digital team got a picture of her doing the signing. It tweeted the image out, and it became one of the top-tweeted items in the country.
“It was authentic,” Fort said. “It gave soul and heart to what’s happening here. These 20 Japanese guests will go back and tell everyone what happened, and the post amplifies what we do.”
February 19, 2014 10:25 AM
Terrence Burns of Teneo (left), who has lived and worked in Russia since 1992, with SBJ's Tripp Mickle
■ "Russia has had a very difficult 20 years. And if you have not been here every month like I have for those 20 years, it's hard for you to imagine. … You can say it's a $51 billion exercise. How you do put a dollar figure on the pride of a country?"
■ "The city in seven years has received an investment that should have been made over 70, but wasn't. … They've done it. They needed it. They built it. They didn't break any promises on what they were going to do for the Olympic Games, so it's time to stop hating on Russia."
February 19, 2014 10:14 AM
Jet Set Sports entertained 64,000 customers and worked with 14 hotels as part of its hospitality efforts in Sochi.
The company, which is the official hospitality supplier of Sochi 2014, has run hospitality programs at 17 Olympics. Its founder, Sead Dizdarevic, is accustomed to last-minute preparations. He had a hotel in Vancouver that his staff worked at for 24 straight hours to open in time for guests. But the size and scale of what Jet Set had to do in Sochi was greater than any other Olympics.
“The reason they were late was they were building three hotels simultaneously without sufficient labor,” Dizdarevic said. “They were disorganized. They jumped from place to place. We asked them to provide the labor and focus on a single hotel, the Solis, and we finished it in four days.”
During the week before the Games, Jet Set’s staff installed television lines, internet service, adjusted thermostats, bought food and drinks for the mini-bars, and cleaned the rooms.
A road that was supposed to reach the Solis, which is perched in the middle of a mountain resort, wasn’t completed and guests were going to have to take their luggage up a gondola to check in. Instead, Jet Set designed a system to ferry their luggage up and down the mountain.
“These are normal growing pains of (new) hotels,” said Alan Dizdarevic, Sead’s son and Jet Set’s co-CEO. “When you’re under a tight timeline, there’s not room for growing pains. You have to become an adult overnight.”
Jet Set was anticipating such problems at the Sochi Games. The construction effort here was greater than any previous Games. Not only was Sochi building venues for events, it was building more than 22,000 hotel rooms. Jet Set’s staff knew some of those wouldn’t be completed.
Dizdarevic said they reserved 260 rooms at the Radisson in the established town of Sochi as a backup in case hotels weren’t done.
“I was ready to move everybody down,” he said. “Tell them it won’t be finished. You won’t be in the mountains. You will be in the city.”
But the work they did on the Solis allowed the company to avoid making that change, and Dizdarevic said that, while he’s not in the construction business, the company’s experience in Sochi has been better than its experience in London in 2012.
During the London Games, the organizing committee required hospitality companies and sponsors to use a transportation company that it subcontracted. That company brought in drivers from outside London and they often got lost. Transportation was an issue for corporate guests throughout those Olympics, and that’s a key part of the guest experience. In Sochi that hasn’t been a problem.
“Just go straight, you’ll run into the Olympic Park. Turn left and you go to the mountains,” Dizdarevic said. “That’s it. You can’t get lost.”
Jet Set brought in five Michelin-caliber chefs from around the world to a restaurant it set up in Sochi.
The restaurant in the Park has been key because there aren’t a lot of other options. There are three concession stands that serve beer and one restaurant. Benches are scattered around where people can sit between events.
The big question in Sochi is who’s going to fill the 47,000 new hotel rooms that were built for the Olympics after the Games end. Dizdarevic believes that people from Russia and Europe will start coming in the next three to five years.
“How many times can you go to Whistler or Vail or Courchevel or Kitzbuhel?” Dizdarevic said. “People travel a lot these days. They say, ‘I want to go skiing or I want to go on a summer vacation.’ This is a new playground, a little village, slopes.”
But that’s not where Jet Set is focused now. It’s focused on Rio 2016.
Dizdarevic said that corporate demand for those Games is greater than London in 2012. More than a third of his business is booked, and it’s two and a half years before the opening ceremony.
“In London, everyone had to be there,” Alan Dizdarevic said. “For Rio, everyone wants to be there.”
February 19, 2014 09:47 AM
Ralph Lauren's opening ceremony sweaters have been hot items at the USA House shop.
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.”
February 19, 2014 09:38 AM
The ice dancing gold by Meryl Davis and Charlie White gave NBC a boost on Monday night.
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.
February 19, 2014 09:33 AM
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. 1No. 2No. 3
11th Day (Monday)Minneapolis-St. PaulKansas City
Salt Lake City
10th Day (Sunday)Kansas City
9th Day (Saturday)Minneapolis-St. PaulDenverMilwaukee 8th Day (Friday)Minneapolis-St. Paul*Salt Lake City*Denver 7th Day (Thursday)Minneapolis-St. PaulSalt Lake CityDenver 6th Day (Wednesday)Minneapolis-St. PaulDenverSalt Lake City 5th Day (Tuesday)Minneapolis-St. PaulSalt Lake CityDenver 4th Day (Monday)Salt Lake CityMinneapolis-St. PaulDenver 3rd Day (Sunday)Salt Lake CityMinneapolis-St. PaulDenver 2nd Day (Saturday)Minneapolis-St. PaulPortlandSalt Lake City Opening CeremonyMinneapolis-St. PaulSalt Lake CityFt. Myers-Naples
CHART NOTE: * = Tied for first place.
February 18, 2014 05:38 PM
Unlike a lot of Olympic legends, former speedskating star Bonnie Blair is busy with appearances in Sochi.
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.”
February 18, 2014 04:21 PM
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.
February 18, 2014 09:44 AM
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.
February 18, 2014 09:05 AM
Skateboarding could be added for the 2020 Tokyo Games at the earliest.
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.”