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Volume 6 No. 212


The U.S. men’s bobsled team hasn’t won a Gold Medal in the two-man competition in close to 80 years, but with some help from sponsor BMW, they’re expected to be in contention in Sochi. BMW has pulled off one of the most effective sponsor integrations at the Sochi Winter Games. Its North American design group, which is based in California, moved the center of gravity in the U.S. sleds, making them more snug and more aerodynamic, as well as personalized the steering for driver Steven Holcomb. Holcomb, who won Gold in the four-man bobsled at the Vancouver Games, said, "If you look at our sled, it’s radically different than other sleds. We have a lot of eyeballs on us.” The new sled has been faster than what the U.S. team was driving before. It helped the team win the first World Championship in two-man bobsled in U.S. history last year.

KEPT UNDER WRAPS: Holcomb has added some mystery to the bobsled, covering it up on the way to the event, and that mystery combined with the U.S. team’s success has given BMW’s sponsorship of Team USA and USA Bobsled great exposure. Coming into the Olympics, BMW garnered coverage of its work on CBS and ABC’s morning shows and in national newspapers (The New York Times) and magazines (Outside, Popular Mechanics). BMW North America VP of Marketing Trudy Hardy said, “It has exceeded my expectations. People can really grab onto this one. They get it. It’s easy to understand: ‘Of course BMW can make a fast sled.’” The interest in BMW’s work was so strong and the story of its design team’s efforts to overhaul the sled so compelling that BMW made it the focal point of its Winter Games activation. It developed a 22-minute documentary, “Driving on Ice,” that tells the story of its collaboration with USA Bobsled. Hardy: “We wanted to make sure the world knew our story of why we decided to do this. It’s something you can’t tell in 30 seconds. There was such a rich story that it needed longer-form content.”

GETTING ON THE AIR: The video, which BMW developed with its agency Universal McCann, aired on NBC on Jan. 15 and drew 1.1 million viewers. NBC also posted it on and its website for on-demand viewing. BMW dealers across the U.S. are showing it on TVs in their waiting area during the Games. Bobsled is a bit like NASCAR -- a proving ground where auto manufacturers can showcase their technological expertise. In Sochi, BMW will be going head-to-head with Ferrari, which is helping the Italians; McLaren, which is helping the Brits; and Audi, which is supporting the Germans. But the German automaker believes in the sled it made for Team USA so much that it developed a 30-second spot around it that’s running on NBC during the Sochi Games. It also is promoting the launch of several new cars, including a new BMW X5 and M235. BMW credited its promotions around Team USA during the London Games with helping sell more than 6,000 new cars. Hardy said she expects Sochi marketing around the bobsled to offer another bump in sales. Hardy: "It’s tracking at a better pace because it’s better connected to our product launches, which makes the dealers happy."

More than 400,000 people around the world have downloaded Samsung’s Olympic WOW app for the Sochi Games. The app is the first Olympic application the longtime global Olympic sponsor has made for Android phones, and it’s attracting more than 145,000 visitors per day. Samsung spokesperson Sheri Kim said, "Our vision for the Sochi Games was to make it the most social Olympic Games. This WOW (app) was very much a part of that smart Olympic Games initiative. We wanted people to capture and share their experience through our phone and the public WOW app.” The app is the result of a year-long effort by a team of five engineers. It includes elements that have never been available in an application for an Olympics before, such as an aggregation for cheers between separate countries competing in a single sport, push notifications on medal results, rules of winter sports, and a Gametracker feature for curling and other sports.

MULTI-LINGUAL: The app was developed in seven different languages, and since the Olympics began, it’s had more than 9 million interactions. The bulk of those have taken place in the U.S., Canada and Russia.

Samsung Says WOW
Total number of WOW app downloads globally: More than 400,000
Total number of visitors per day globally: More than 145,000
Total number of transactions per day globally: More than 9 million
Country with the most downloads: 1) U.S.; 2) Canada; 3) Russia
Sport with the most cheers through WOW: 1) Snowboard; 2) Speedskating; 3) Biathlon
Samsung’s Senior Manager, New Business Development Group Shawn Sanghyo Jung said, “It was very difficult (to make it in so many languages). But Samsung is a worldwide company. We have an affiliate in every country. We asked them to review it in French and Spanish and Russian.” Samsung has made an app for every Olympics since the 2004 Athens Games, when it made an app for Palm phones. But those apps historically were only available to members of the Olympic family, such as IOC members and sports federation officials. This is the second consumer-facing app they have developed. (The first was made for Vancouver.) But it is the first they have offered in Google’s app store.

A SENSE OF COMMUNITY: Jung said, “We wanted to create a community. There was many people in the world and many people in Sochi. We wanted to communicate between Sochi people and worldwide people. They share emotion. They share information in here worldwide.”

Samsung opted to only develop the app for phones, like its own, that use Google’s Android operating system in Sochi. It is not offering it on Apple’s iOS system, but Jung said they may consider that next time. The company hasn’t committed to develop an app for the 2016 Rio Games yet, and Jung acknowledged that developing an app for 28 sports -- more than double the number that participate in a Winter Games -- would be daunting, but he still hopes they do it. He got excited at the idea of developing a Gametracker-like illustration for swimming. Jung: “We can make swimming lanes, like animation, so we can show the intermediate result in each point -- 50 meters and 100 meters. We can move the athletes at each point, like real.”

If providing WiFi service to spectators at sports venues across the U.S. is tough, then providing it to the prickly and complaint-prone press corps and demanding Olympic family at the Sochi Games is downright dangerous for a company. But Canada’s Avaya, which is delivering WiFi at every venue, didn’t hesitate. “We’ll deliver during the Games, and we want to be sure people are talking sports and not technology,” said Dean Frohwerk, who leads Avaya’s solutions engineering efforts and is overseeing work at the Sochi Games.

Delivering The Goods
The top 5 apps used by Olympic executives, Olympians and media during a four-hour period:
Twitter (5,130 MB)
Facebook (2,222 MB)
Skype (1,475 MB)
Dropbox (778 MB)
Instagram (746 MB)
The company is the official supplier of network equipment in Sochi. It installed 2,500 wireless access points throughout Sochi’s venues, and its systems are processing 1-2 terabytes of data daily. The sponsorship has been good for Avaya’s business. Because Sochi was built from scratch, it was able to win contracts to provide services at many of the new hotels, restaurants and retail outlets being built before the Games. Frohwerk said Avaya’s business in Russia is up 120% since it became a Sochi supplier. It hit its revenue goals in the market two-and-a-half years into a four-year plan. He expects those numbers to rise further after hosting and demonstrating its work in Sochi to more than 70 CIOs it’s bringing to Sochi from companies around the world. Frohwerk: “That’s when it really starts resonating with the customer. It’s not what you’re planning to do. It’s what you did” (More at SBJ's ON THE GROUND Blog).

When Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the creation of a special protest area at the Winter Olympics, "it looked like a victory for freedom of speech," according to Timothy Heritage of REUTERS. A week into the Games "his decision to ease the blanket ban on protests in Sochi, presented as a liberal concession to critics, has done little or nothing to lift the lid on dissent during the Games." The "Speakers' Corner" is tucked away in a small, "scruffy park overlooked by a noisy highway in the Sochi suburb of Khosta, 20 minutes by train from the nearest Olympic venue and out of sight for athletes, foreign dignitaries and fans." There have been small protests by gay rights activists elsewhere in Russia during the Games, "but only two sparsely attended meetings this month in the protest area itself." One drew attention to the plight of Russians born in World War Two, "the other supported Putin." It is not "exactly the stuff revolutions are made of," and the people of Khosta hardly even noticed. Lyuba Kuznetsova, a woman walking her dog through the park on a sunny February morning, said, "Protests? Here? Are you sure? What's there to protest about?" Police "detained gay rights activists who tried to protest" in Moscow and St. Petersburg on Feb. 7, the day the Games opened. About 30 people with the gay pride flag "protested in Moscow on Saturday against homophobia and political repression" (REUTERS, 2/15).

The IOC this week asked Sochi 2014 organizers to stop projecting images of Coca-Cola, Aeroflot and other sponsors on the LED-lit exterior of the Bolshoy and Shayba arenas. In a world of rampant commercialism, the IOC prides itself on clean venues that are free of signage. The IOC’s marketing team initially was comfortable with the logos because they appeared outside the venues, but it later decided that they were in camera-visible positions. IOC Dir of TV and Marketing Services Timo Lumme said, “The projection of sponsor logos was one of the things in development (from us to) add to recognition of sponsors. The issue on that specific execution was that it was in the sightline of the broadcast tower, which didn’t work because we can’t have broadcasters showing commercial logos.”

ACCEPTABLE COMMERCIALISM: Lumme said the IOC doesn’t consider the Olympic Park to be a “clean venue” and pointed to Coca-Cola’s branding at concession stands, Visa’s branding at the Olympic Megastore and showcase pavilions as examples of acceptable commercialism. Lumme: “We’re looking at other feasible ideas of increasing the appropriate visibility and recognition of partners.” AIPS (Association Intenrationale de la Presse Sportive) first reported the logos.

Australian snowboarder Belle Brockhoff "has revealed she has been subjected to hate tweets" hoping she would "break a leg and get locked in the slammer" because of her sexuality (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 2/17). ... British short track athlete Elise Christie "has deleted her Twitter account after reportedly suffering abuse following a pile-up during the women’s 500m final at the Sochi Olympics." Christie revealed she had been the target of ‘‘unpleasant’’ abuse on social media after the 500m race (SMH, 2/17). ... Sochi organizers said on Sunday that the Olympic biathlon men's 15k mass start at the Sochi Olympics "has been postponed until Monday due to poor visibility after heavy fog fell on the Laura centre." The race was first delayed by an hour, but conditions "did not improve" (REUTERS, 2/16). ... India "completed its return to the Olympic family on Sunday when its flag was hoisted at the Sochi Games," five days after the IOC lifted its suspension on the South Asian nation. New IOC President N. Ramachandran said, "Very, very emotional." (REUTERS, 2/16). ... Russian Olympic skicross racer Maria Komissarova "was in a serious but stable condition" on Sunday after breaking her back in a training crash at the Sochi Olympics and undergoing surgery. The 23-year-old "had a metal implant inserted" on Saturday during a more than six-hour operation. Surgeons said that they would "not know how successful the operation had been for three or four days" (REUTERS, 2/16). ... In a Japanese poll conducted by Yomiuri Shimbun, 70% of respondents said they would choose to add baseball/softball to the 2020 Tokyo Games, given the opportunity to select from one of the seven IOC-shortlisted sports (World Baseball Softball Confederation).