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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.

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Related Topics:

Citi, Olympics

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