SBG: One Championship Set To Conquer Asia SBJ: NBC Sports enters streaming business SBD: Dollar General Leaving Kenseth's No. 20 Car SBG: West Ham Facing Stadium Crisis SBD: Padres Apologize To San Diego Gay Men's Chorus SBD: Executive Transactions SBD: Joe Lacob Wins Sports Executive Of The Year SBD: Under Armour Taking Over UCLA Apparel Rights SBJ: Go time for Turner/WME-IMG’s ELeague SBD: L.A. Pulls Out Of Bidding For '20 Super Bowl
February 5, 2014 09:52 AM
NBC Olympics and Yahoo will partner to promote video highlights and live streamed video of the Sochi Games, ending years of competition and public sniping over what outlet drove the most traffic during an Olympic Games.
Tripp Mickle and Eric Fisher discuss the NBC-Yahoo Olympic deal, whether the two sides will be able to get along during the Sochi Games and whether the partnership will last past 2014.
Under the new deal, NBCOlympics.com and Yahoo will remain independent and continue to sell their own inventory, but link to each other’s stories and videos in order to boost each other’s traffic during the Sochi Games. Yahoo Sports and NBC Sports staff will contribute to Olympic news and digital segments that air on NBCOlympics.com, and NBC Olympics will integrate Yahoo Search, Flickr and Tumblr into its website during the Games.
“We have had a great year on the sports side,” said Rick Cordella, NBC Sports Digital’s senior vice president and general manager. “It makes all the sense in the world that we match the uniqueness of what Yahoo can do with the uniqueness of what NBC can do. It’s a great partnership that we hope to see manifest itself in later Olympics.”
For Yahoo, the partnership bolsters its existing Olympics coverage by allowing it to link directly to highlights and live video on NBCOlympics.com, a move expected to help Yahoo attract more visitors.
“This is a peanut-butter-and-jelly deal,” said Ken Fuchs, vice president global media and commerce at Yahoo. “It brings to our users the one thing we haven’t had [video] around the data and stories we tell. They can jump in and watch live and watch highlights in ways they couldn’t before. That’s a very unique thing for us.”
The partnership was approved by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus.
As early as February of this year, a full year before the start of the Sochi Games, NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel confirmed negotiations of a potential Olympics partnership. But as talks dragged on through the summer and fall without resolution, uncertainty grew over whether an agreement could be reached in time to deploy for Sochi. Last winter, Zenkel had said a decision would have needed to be made by the summer in order to execute properly. But as talks continued, that artificial deadline was extended.
Some NBC executives harbored reservations about working with Yahoo because the company had boasted in press releases during the four previous Olympics (2006-12) that it drove more traffic than NBCOlympics.com, particularly during the high-profile Beijing Summer Games of 2008.
NBC worked with MSN to boost traffic during the Beijing Games and partnered with YouTube in an effort to improve its digital reach during the 2012 London Games. But the company, which streamed all Olympic competition live for the first time in 2012, found that most of its 2 billion page views and 159 million video views came from NBCOlympics.com and not YouTube. As a result, it considered operating its site for the first time without partnering with a portal.
Cordella said NBC’s and Yahoo’s competition during years past wasn’t an issue in negotiations, particularly as the sports partnership grew during the course of this year. He added that he expects NBCOlympics.com and Yahoo will still compete to draw users to their own respective properties during the Sochi Games, but the hope is that making video available on both NBCOlympics.com and Yahoo will boost traffic for both sites.
“We’re doing this for our collective audience,” Cordella said. “The ultimate beneficiary is the consumer.”
Outside of the Olympics, the NBC Sports-Yahoo partnership has generated an extensive amount of content integration, particularly around events such as college football’s National Signing Day and the creation of the daily “SportsDash” sports talk program that appears on NBC Sports Network and both partners’ websites.
Similar content integration is expected to happen during the Olympics. Yahoo will embed some of its staff in Stamford, Conn., where NBC’s digital team is based, to work directly on that.
“We expect to have a historic level of interest for Sochi,” Cordella said. “You think about this compared to Vancouver [in 2010], the iPad wasn’t even out yet back then.”
February 5, 2014 09:51 AM
Executive Director Dave Ogrean
Photo by:GETTY IMAGES
Ogrean, who’s also a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee board of directors, joined USA Hockey in 2005. During his eight years of leadership, the organization’s total revenue rose 45 percent from $24.4 million to $35.4 million.
USA Hockey President Ron DeGregorio said in a statement: “His leadership has been a significant factor in the continued progress we’ve made overall, and we’re fortunate to have him guiding USA Hockey.”
Ogrean played a critical role in forging a partnership with the NHL three years ago that sees the league contribute $8 million annually to the USA Hockey Foundation, which supports national hockey programs and initiatives. He also led the creation of the American Development Model, an initiative to assist hockey associations with the development of young players. USA Hockey’s player membership has grown from 442,077 in 2005 to 510,279 today.
February 5, 2014 09:50 AM
Citi is bringing its Olympic hospitality home.
Rather than limiting its hospitality to Sochi, the company is renting a loft in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood where it will host employees, clients and customers from Feb. 18-23. Citi is the only sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Committee doing on-site hospitality in the U.S., and sources estimated that it will spend more than $1 million over those six days.
Like Citi, the USOC also decided to expand its hospitality offerings from Sochi to the U.S. The organization is hosting five hospitality events in four U.S. cities next year (SportsBusiness Journal, Oct. 21-27).
Both the USOC and Citi’s plans are driven in part by the challenge of reaching Sochi, which requires a 20-hour flight from many U.S. cities, and a belief that there’s an opportunity to give more customers Olympic experiences by creating domestic events.
“We like to look for client engagement opportunities beyond the actual events,” Davis said. “The Olympics is the perfect sponsorship to do that with because it’s not here in the U.S., and even if it were in the U.S., the number of people who could experience it would be limited.”
The loft Citi is renting will hold 300 to 500 people. Davis said Citi is still planning, but she expects the loft will host morning, midday and evening events. Citi doesn’t have an estimate of how many guests it will host. Some days it may be as many as 1,000, on others far fewer.
Guests will be able to view the Olympics on projector screens and TVs. There will be athlete appearances and interactive elements, such as a small luge course.
The company plans to issue invitations to the hospitality center in January. Davis said success won’t be determined by a traditional return-on-investment measurement.
“We’ll reach back out to the clients and colleagues and see if they walk away with the sense that Citi enabled them to have a richer experience with the Olympics,” Davis said. “It’s all about employee and client engagement.”
Lead Dog Marketing, which was selected in an agency review held this fall, will run the hospitality center.
February 5, 2014 09:49 AM
High shipping costs and Russian food regulations have made it challenging for U.S. Olympic Committee sponsors to get their companies’ food products into the country for the Sochi Games.
Sponsor Chobani won’t have any products at the USOC hospitality center; Smucker’s is still exploring what products it will try to get in to Russia.
Packaged goods companies that are USOC sponsors typically ship their products to the Olympics so that athletes and members of the USOC delegation can use them. By doing so, they hope to raise awareness of the products, showcase their support of Team USA and get media attention if athletes mention their brands during interviews.
Each Olympic Games presents its own set of shipping challenges. For the Beijing Games, brands had to list all the ingredients in food products on the exterior of shipping boxes in order for the boxes to be admitted into China. For the London Games, brands couldn’t send any products with genetically modified foods, which are banned by the European Union.
The Sochi Games have presented similar challenges. Russia, like the European Union, has a ban against genetically modified foods, and the country has special regulations about foods with live cultures in them, like Chobani’s yogurt.
“In a normal situation, it’s hard to get food to these places,” said Sandy Uridge, Kellogg Co. senior director of integrated consumer promotions. “It’s complicated for an Olympics.”
The USOC begins evaluating the shipping rules of Olympic host countries five years before a Games. It works with cargo-shipping company Rock-It Cargo, which handles the international shipping for hundreds of bands touring worldwide, to understand what can and cannot be shipped.
Companies such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, which already have extensive and well-established operations in Russia, aren’t affected by the country’s shipping rules, but Kellogg’s, Chobani and Smucker’s all have had to work with the USOC to determine what they can send to Sochi.
Uridge said Kellogg’s doesn’t have a cereal business in Russia, so the company will be shipping breakfast-related products from Europe.
Chobani made arrangements to get its product into Russia but decided against sending its yogurt there because of high shipping costs. The company is exploring the possibility of having a yogurt station at the USOC’s processing center in Munich as an alternative. Team USA athletes will pass through the processing center to get supplies and equipment before going to Sochi, and the yogurt would be offered alongside meals that are being served there.
Chobani confirmed it will not be shipping product to Russia but declined to comment on questions about its shipping plans.
February 5, 2014 09:48 AM
The U.S. Olympic Committee board of directors finalized a four-year contract extension with Scott Blackmun that will see him continue to lead the organization through the 2016 Rio Games.
Tripp Mickle talks about the challenges Scott Blackmun faced, the job he has done and how his salary stacks up to the rest of the sports industry.
“This extension is an indication of the excellent job Scott has done the last four years,” USOC Chairman Larry Probst said in an email. “Scott has worked diligently to build the reputation of the USOC both domestically and abroad, and we are excited that this extension will keep him as our leader for another four years.”
The contract is Blackmun’s second with the USOC. The deal offers an increase in base compensation but a decrease in performance compensation. Bonuses in his previous deal brought his total compensation to $765,369 last year, according to USOC tax filings, but the new deal doesn’t include a long-term incentive bonus of $425,000 that rewarded him for staying in the job the last four years.
The USOC was in turmoil when Blackmun joined it in early 2010. He was the USOC’s third CEO in less than a year, and he stepped into the job at a time when Olympic partners criticized the organization for becoming insular and ineffective. He responded by promoting a service-minded culture at the USOC that was more inclusive of outside constituent groups like the national governing bodies and former Olympians. He led that effort by emailing NGB executives the summaries of board meetings and sharing the USOC’s financials at the Olympic Assembly — things that had never been done in the past.
“Scott rebuilt the trust and confidence of everyone within the Olympic family that the USOC is a stable partner for all of us, whether you’re an NGB or a corporate partner,” said Steve Penny, USA Gymnastics president and CEO.
Blackmun and Probst also worked to repair the organization’s standing internationally. They traveled to events such as gatherings of the Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees, Pan-American Sports Organization meetings and Sport Accord meetings. They were rewarded by being named to the International Olympic Committee’s marketing and international relations commissions.
Perhaps Blackmun’s biggest international achievement came last spring when the USOC reached a new revenue-sharing agreement with the IOC. The USOC had faced escalating criticism because of an agreement that gave it 20 percent of IOC sponsorship revenue and 12 percent of Olympic media rights fees paid by U.S. broadcaster NBC. The situation even had been blamed for Chicago’s failed bid to host the 2016 Olympics. Blackmun helped craft a deal that will see the USOC retain $410 million in revenue but contribute a greater share to the cost of future Olympic Games.
For his successes in 2012, SportsBusiness Journal/Daily named Blackmun Executive of the Year. Under his leadership, the USOC increased its total number of sponsors from 13 to 22, adding blue-chip brands such as BP, Citi and Kellogg’s. U.S. Olympic teams also won the medal count at the 2010 Vancouver Games and 2012 London Games.
Blackmun, 56, now is focused on increasing the USOC’s revenue through fundraising and bringing the Summer Games back to the U.S. in 2024. The organization launched a new foundation earlier this year to assist with fundraising, and it is in the process of determining how it will select a potential bid city for the 2024 Games.
“Scott came to the USOC at a time of turmoil and he, along with the senior team he has built around him, have provided not only much needed stability to the USOC but have helped further enhance the Olympic Movement in the U.S.,” Probst said. “I look forward to the USOC’s continued success, and to partnering with Scott for the next four years.”
February 5, 2014 09:47 AM
NBC Sports executives are more optimistic about the Sochi Games than they have been about any Winter Olympics in the last decade.
Ad sales are strong, internal research suggests viewership will be high, and the event is expected to be “comfortably” profitable.
NBC agreed to pay $775 million for the rights to the Sochi Games. The price tag is slightly less than the $820 million the company spent on the 2010 Vancouver Games when NBC’s then-parent company, General Electric, reported a $233 million loss on the event.
But Lazarus said the combination of its lower rights fee and a strong ad market means the company won’t incur a loss on the upcoming Winter Olympics.
Advertising sales have been so strong that Seth Winter, NBC Sports executive vice president of ad sales, said the company is positioned to sell out its first Olympics in more than a decade. Ad inventory is more than 90 percent sold for the Sochi Games, a major reversal from the 2010 Vancouver Games when it was only 70 percent sold less than 100 days before the opening ceremony.
“I’ve never walked into a Games feeling we’re this well sold,” Winter said. He added that he is concerned NBC Sports may not have “enough inventory to meet the demand in the marketplace.”
NBC still has several key categories available, including beer and technology, and Winter expects to find advertisers in those categories in the coming months. He attributed the sales success for Sochi to demand among ad buyers for the strong ratings that the Olympics historically have delivered over 17 days. He also said NBC’s move to divide categories into more refined segments helped sales. He pointed to banking as an example. NBC sold retail, online trading, consumer banking and other categories. It landed deals with TD Ameritrade and Citi.
NBC’s research shows that awareness of the Winter Olympics is at record levels. A survey of Nielsen subscribers that NBC conducts showed that intent to watch the Sochi Winter Olympics is at more than 52 percent, and NBC Sports chief marketer John Miller said that’s before the company has made its final promotional push around the Games. He expects the intent to view to rise closer to the Games and believes the addition of a day of competition on Feb. 6, the day before Sochi’s opening ceremony, will boost viewership for the ceremony.
“My sense is there will be a significant number of people surprised by [Feb. 6],” Miller said. “Then social media will explode between the 6th and the 7th [of February]. More people will watch the opening ceremony, and the number of people who watch the opening ceremony often affects how many people view the Olympics.”
NBC and ad buyers did not discuss any specific ratings projections or share what guarantees have been offered to advertisers. The Vancouver Games averaged a 13.8 rating and 24.4 million viewers for its 17 prime-time broadcasts.
Miller and other NBC executives acknowledged that few Americans know about the actual host location of Sochi, but they’re not concerned about that.
“The stage of the Games is the Winter Olympics,” Miller said. “The location flavors it, shapes it a little, but the Winter Olympics is fascinating to people whether it’s Sochi or Cleveland.”
NBC hopes to overcome the lack of knowledge about Sochi by emphasizing that this is a Russian Olympics. They believe that recent political news about the country has raised Russia’s profile in the U.S., and they hope to capitalize on that.
Over the past year, Russia has been in the news for everything from granting Edward Snowden asylum to brokering a deal between the U.S. and Syria to remove chemical weapons from the Middle Eastern country. Russian President Vladimir Putin also wrote an editorial in The New York Times, and the country’s anti-gay propaganda law has generated extensive news articles in the West about protests and potential boycotts.
“What people do know [about Sochi] is it’s Russia,” Lazarus said. “We believe in the mystery of Russia, and people want to understand Russia. There’s a curiosity around that with the American population.”
February 5, 2014 09:46 AM
When the 100-day countdown to the Torino Olympics began eight years ago, Kellogg’s didn’t hold a press event or announce a marketing program. In fact, it did next to nothing.
More than a dozen sponsors participate in the 100-day-countdown event for the Sochi Olympics last week in Times Square.
Photo by:GETTY IMAGES
“It used to be a struggle to get sponsors to do something early,” said Ted Morris, U.S. Speedskating’s executive director and the former head of marketing at U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. “Now a lot of sponsors are finding more ways to get beyond the two weeks of the Games, and it’s good for everybody.”
The 100-day countdown is becoming a major milestone, and that’s resulted in more sponsors unveiling Olympic marketing programs earlier than they did historically. For example, Procter & Gamble, The North Face (a USSA sponsor), Ralph Lauren, Oakley, Chobani, TD Ameritrade and others last week made announcements around a 100-day-out celebration in New York, and Citi announced its program the week before to avoid the crowd.
The reasons for the earlier unveilings include the U.S. Olympic Committee’s creation of a 100-day-countdown event in New York, NBC’s expansion of its Olympic marketing efforts around that day, and sponsors’ ability to use social media to drive consumers to Olympic-themed websites with athlete-related content.
The USOC created its first 100-days-out celebration in 2009 for the Vancouver Games. Seven sponsors committed to participate and set up booths around the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center in New York.
For the London Games and Sochi Games, the USOC moved the event to Times Square and convinced more sponsors to participate. More than a dozen sponsors took part in the Sochi event last week. Anheuser-Busch brought its Clydesdales and Chobani passed out yogurt. The event was expected to draw 170,000 people, and several sponsor executives said it prompted them to roll out their activations last week.
“Because the USOC is getting messaging out there, it does make consumers aware and creates a natural timing for programs to launch,” said Sandy Uridge, senior director of integrated consumer promotions at Kellogg’s, which didn’t do any marketing around the 100-day-out mark for the 2006 Torino Games.
NBC’s approach to the 100-day-out mark adds to sponsors’ interest in doing something then. The Olympic broadcaster has treated the date as a marketing milestone, releasing additional commercials and scheduling Olympic-related programming on everything from the “Today” show to NBC Sports Network’s “SportsDash.” The noise it’s able to make has been amplified since the Comcast merger gave NBC six more channels to promote the Olympics across beginning that day.
P&G took advantage of that last week, arranging for skier Lindsey Vonn to appear on the “Today” show and discuss the company’s “Thank you, Mom” campaign. That opportunity led P&G to roll out its Olympic marketing campaign last week.
“We worked closely with the USOC and NBC to make sure our plans match with theirs,” said Jodi Allen, P&G North America vice president of marketing and brand operations. “Their best learnings are that starting [100 days out] then is the best way to build momentum.”
Both Kellogg’s and P&G developed websites with digital videos that tell their athletes’ stories. Several other sponsors, including BP and Citi, did the same thing. The sites are inexpensive compared with the print and TV media that sponsors would have needed to buy years ago to support Olympic campaigns this early, and sponsors can use their athletes’ Twitter feeds, Facebook pages and Instagram accounts to push consumers to the sites before the Games.
“Ten years ago, it would have been very expensive and highly ineffective to come out with an Olympic program now,” said Dave Mingey, president of GlideSlope, which works with Citi and Dow on their Olympic sponsorships. “But in terms of how we consume mass marketing these days, people are willing to accept the start of Olympic marketing now through digital and social. It flows into an overall marketing trend where people can customize the messages they receive, and you’re seeing that window [of Olympic marketing] becoming much broader.”
Not every sponsor has bought into the idea of releasing its Olympic-marketing program 100 days before a Winter Games. Many executives look at the calendar and prefer to wait until after Thanksgiving and Christmas to release their programs.
Ralph Lauren’s “Made in the U.S.A.” uniforms for Team USA are unveiled; freestyle skier Alex Schlopy sticks his landing; more than 170,000 fans were expected at the Times Square event.
Photo by:GETTY IMAGES (3)
“We want to keep focused on one message,” said Ryan Luckey, AT&T’s assistant vice president, corporate sponsorships. “The Olympics can be phased in later, probably early next year.”
February 5, 2014 09:45 AM
When news broke last year that Ralph Lauren made Team USA’s Olympic opening ceremony uniforms in China, the company was trashed on social media and blasted on Capitol Hill. It responded by pledging that the uniforms it supplies to athletes competing in the 2014 Sochi Games would be made in the United States.
But the company went several steps further.
The U.S. team marched in at London wearing uniforms made in China, prompting criticism.
Photo by:GETTY IMAGES
The effort forced Ralph Lauren to make changes to its manufacturing and sourcing process. For example, it found sheep for its wool sweaters in Oregon.
Ralph Lauren declined to make an executive available to discuss the changes. A company executive is expected to appear on NBC’s “Today” show Tuesday to unveil the uniforms and talk about how the company overhauled its sourcing and manufacturing process.
Returning to NBC’s “Today” show to introduce the new, made-in-the-USA uniforms is fitting. It was there in July of 2012 that the company unveiled Team USA’s uniforms for the London Games.
A day later, ABC News, which competes with NBC, did a story on the fact that the labels in the uniform said “Made in China.” Congress latched onto the story. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the U.S. Olympic Committee should be “ashamed of themselves” and suggested the organization burn the uniforms and “start over again.”
Ralph Lauren initially declined to respond to the criticism, but it eventually released a statement saying it would manufacture future Team USA uniforms in the U.S. It added, “Ralph Lauren promises to lead the conversation within our industry and our government to address the issue to increase manufacturing in the United States.”
Securing a “Made in the USA” label is not easy. The Federal Trade Commission has guidelines for using the label that say that it should be reserved for a product that’s “all or virtually all” made in the U.S. That means that all of “significant parts and processing that go in the product must be of U.S. origin.” For apparel, that means that the fabric used must be from the U.S., as well.
Immediately after the London Games controversy, Ralph Lauren began working to find fabrics and manufacturers that would allow it to put a “Made in the USA” tag in its USOC-related apparel. That was the only effective way the company could avoid facing similar public and political criticism ahead of the Sochi Games, said Ann Wool, managing director of Ketchum Sports and Entertainment, which doesn’t work with Ralph Lauren but works with Olympic sponsors such as Procter & Gamble and Liberty Mutual.
“There are no other options that would give them this type of positive public perception,” Wool said. “Having a ‘Made in the USA’ tag inside a uniform is the right thing to have. It’s absolutely a good PR move. It may beg the question from an industry standpoint: What about the rest of production? But for Team USA merchandise and opening ceremony uniforms, it’s great.”
February 5, 2014 09:44 AM
No Olympic marketing challenge is greater than the transition from a Summer Games to a Winter Games. Marketers have less than 18 months to develop and launch a campaign. Sandy Uridge, senior director of integrated consumer promotions at Kellogg Co., is putting the finishing touches on that brand’s efforts for the 2014 Sochi Games, with plans to launch the program next week.
With professional sports, it’s all about Q Scores. With Olympians, a lot of times consumers don’t know them at all. It’s more about the story than that they’re the most well-known. What’s charming about them is how consumers connect with the fact that these athletes have worked so hard to get to the Games. They connect with those personal stories, and that’s what we try to bring to consumers — that connection.
Winter vs. Summer: The “100 days out” occurs around Halloween, and the retail selling season is focused on many other things [before a Winter Games], like holidays, football and March Madness, whereas for a Summer Games, you start in April and have a much clearer window.
The best ideas: We have worked very hard to build an idea culture. The best testament to that is that our idea for our Olympic campaign actually came through a process called “pitch day.” That’s where anyone from innovation to marketing to our research team to any of our agencies can come in and pitch ideas to a panel of judges. … The whole idea of “From Great Starts Come Great Things” [the company’s Olympics campaign] came from our first pitch day.
Changes in Olympic marketing: Mostly, if you’re with a CPG company, that’s related to how we’re able to affect the situation with our retail customers. The USOC has been able to pull together CPG companies and drive scale at retail. It used to be retailers would say, “The Olympics are every two years. People are at home watching TV and not in my store. Why should I give you space?” The idea [USOC CMO] Lisa Baird and her team came up with to bring together P&G, Smucker’s and others at retail is making a huge difference.
Admirable brands: I really like Nike. They’re brave. They do some unexpected things. The TV spot from 2012 and “Find Your Greatness” was amazing. It was unexpected but so right for their brand.
February 5, 2014 09:43 AM
The U.S. Olympic Committee next year will offer a series of first-time hospitality experiences during the Sochi Games.
The organization plans to host domestic events for sponsors for the first time in four U.S. cities. It also secured a location in Sochi’s Olympic Park for its hospitality experience, known as USA House, during the Winter Games, marking the first time USA House has ever been inside the Olympic Park.
USOC chief marketer Lisa Baird said the organization’s marketing department came up with the idea to create mini, one-night-only USA House events in the U.S. after the London Games because staff recognized that many sponsor employees and customers can’t attend the Olympics. The travel challenges with Sochi, which requires multiple flights and can take as long as 20 hours to reach from the East Coast, means that fewer guests from the U.S. are expected to attend this Olympics than previous Winter Games in Vancouver and Turin, Italy.Between Feb. 7-23, the USOC will set up what it is calling Team USA Clubs for sponsors, donors and special guests in Los Angeles (Feb. 7); Vail, Colo. (Feb. 15); Chicago (Feb. 20 and 21); and New York City (Feb. 23). The invitation-only events are being held on the same days that the USOC’s experiential marketing program, the Road to Sochi tour, visits those cities.
The clubs will serve as NBC viewing parties with food and beverages and appearances by former Olympians. The events already are overbooked, and the USOC expects 300 to 400 guests at each gathering.
Baird said the costs of the clubs are covered by the incremental costs that 12 sponsors paid for the USOC’s Road to Sochi tour.
“It was really driven by the fact that there are sponsors that have [high-level] people that never go to a Games,” Baird said. “Our thinking was, ‘Try it for Winter because if it’s successful, we’ll expand it for Rio [in 2016]. Clearly, this is an element people are interested in.”
Tripp Mickle & Tom Stinson talk about the buildup to the Sochi Games
Louder is providing the temporary facility in Sochi.
Photo by:USOC WITH LOUDER
The USA House serves as a gathering place for members of the USOC, Team USA, corporate partners, sponsors, suppliers and licensees. The Sochi facility will be 7,000 square feet, which is roughly the same size as the USA House in Vancouver in 2010. Last year’s USA House in London was more than 10,000 square feet.
The 2014 version will have wood interiors, televisions and multiple rooms. There will be a courtyard where guests can talk outside, and Olympic venues will be within walking distance. The temporary facility, which has been used previously, will be coming from Austria and is being provided by the Finland-based company Louder. After the Games, the facility will be dismantled and used as a hospitality venue for European ski events.
Choosing to put the USA House inside the Olympic Park carries some risk for the USOC. To enter the park, people need spectator passes that are linked to tickets. Unless arrangements are made, that will limit the number of visitors to USA House to people with tickets for events. That’s a change from years past when people without tickets could go to the venue to watch the Games with fellow fans of Team USA.
The site’s location means the organization also needs to use approved vendors for its food and beverage services, which could lead to increased prices and costs for the venue.
Baird said that the USOC expects fewer guests than years past and costs won’t be a problem. She said the USOC spoke with Sochi organizers about the spectator pass system and is confident it will be able to accommodate last-minute guests interested in visiting USA House during the Games.
“At the end of the day, we thought the [Olympic] Park would be the best location,” Baird said. “We know a lot of VIP guests love the medal ceremony and seeing our athletes. We don’t want it to get tired as a concept. We want to bring something new. The idea of being in the park next to the venues will make it a different type of house. People will go to two or maybe three events a day, and they will drop in between events. That’s a nice thing to do.”