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Volume 25 No. 88
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KT Tape Once Again Finds Surprise Olympic Exposure

KT Tape dispatched an emissary to South Korea on Monday night armed with 100 rolls of the brand’s “Gentle” line to give to Team USA after skier Ted Ligety wore KT Tape on his face to protect from the cold wind.

Once again, the Olympics have created a rare lightning-in-a-bottle opportunity for the Utah company, which first found serious traction after beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings and others conspicuously wore it during the 2008 Beijing Games.

U.S. skier Ted Ligety used KT Tape to protect from Pyeongchang's harsh winds and cold weather.
Photo: Getty Images

Ten years and a U.S. Olympic Committee licensing deal later, viewers are still managed to be surprised by the tape — in part because the tape often makes for a striking departure from the usual athletic look, and also because athletes find new ways to use it.

Ligety’s purpose — for warmth — is an “off label” use, said CEO Greg Venner. “I get it, but it’s not something we’ve really explored very deeply,” he said. “To recommend it to the world’s elite athletes, I’m not quite ready to go there.”

Nevertheless, KT won’t let the opportunity go by without throwing the full weight of the company behind it. Its marketing consultant, Guillermo Rojas of Torre Consulting, packed up 100 rolls of KT Tape Gentle and jumped on a plane Monday to Korea. As part of its ongoing USOC relationship, KT Tape Pro was made available to all athletes, but the Gentle version is best for sensitive faces, Rojas said.

“Should be enough for every outdoor athlete,” he said.

Stateside, KT Tape also is leveraging the social media attention it got from figure skater Mirai Nagasu, who wore a large piece of tape on her thigh during her performance Monday. Many Twitter users thought it might be a tattoo, and KT Tape’s social team was more than happy to clarify. As a result of Nagusu’s tape, KT Tape’s Twitter impressions in 24 hours tripled its usual weekly total, Venner said, and its website traffic doubled.

KT Tape does sign sponsorship deals with athletes ahead of time, but the best incremental gain in awareness often comes from surprises. Venner said the executive and marketing teams will watch for their product in sports, and if they see it, they’ll mobilize the social media team and look for chances to engage with users. They did the same thing when Tom Brady wore it on his thumb in the Super Bowl.

“I wouldn’t say it was a core competency as recently as 18 months ago,” Venner said, “but I think with the last Olympics round, we learned we have to be really prepared for it, and each time it happens we learn a little bit more and adjust our game plan accordingly.”

KT Tape was slow to enter the Winter Olympics, in part because its executives thought the cold weather meant less exposed skin and therefore fewer obvious places to display the tape.