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Volume 10 No. 25


The Sochi Games helped Coca-Cola achieve double-digit growth in Russia last year for its trademark Coca-Cola brand. The company has been using the Olympics to market its brand in Russia the last five years, and over that time it saw an increase in volume, brand preference and, perhaps most importantly, brand preference among Russian teens, which is a key demographic. Coca-Cola’s VP\Global Alliances & Ventures Emmanuel Seuge said, “The Olympics have definitely been a huge success in Russia. We had a good end of the year in Russia and activation started nine months ago in Russia.” Coca-Cola VP\Global of Partnerships & Experiential Marketing Scott McCune said that the other thing the Olympics had done was boost Coca-Cola’s sales and stature in southern Russia. The company has long been a market leader in the soft-drink category in Russia, but it trailed Pepsi in the south of the country. McCune said,  “Sochi has allowed us to take leadership because of the five-year build-up.”

SOCHI SHOWCASE: Coca-Cola has a large, red showcase pavilion in the Olympic Park in Sochi. More than 2,500 spectators a day are coming through the venue. The showcase emphasizes healthy and active living. It features two domes that can be seen by spectators as they exit the train station. One of the domes highlights Coke’s role in the Olympic Torch relay and talks about the history of the company in Russia. The second is interactive and encourages guests to live active lifestyles. Coca-Cola tends to put less emphasis on the Winter Games than it does on the Summer Olympics. It is only activating in 10 to 15 markets worldwide, and its focus around Sochi has been growing its business in Russia. In an earnings call last week, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent said that the company last year saw its business achieve an “all-time high market share for non-alcoholic, ready-to-drink beverages.”

Even before Sunday's Closing Ceremony at the Sochi Olympics, contractors and investors "are scrambling to make sure their books balance before President Vladimir Putin launches a face-saving audit of the Games," according to Elizabeth Piper of REUTERS. After "months of criticism" over the record-breaking price tag and opposition allegations of fraud and corruption, Putin "has signaled that reports of corruption, waste or abuse of funds will be investigated after the event, if there is evidence." Shortly after the Games began, Putin told Sochi officials, "A very large amount of money has been invested. Now is not the time to discuss whether it was worth it, or whether the prices were inflated or not. Let the supervisory bodies deal with that, and they will deal with it." But instead of singling out the high-profile businessmen "who splashed out to build glittering stadiums, hotels and a costly railway to the ski slopes," many Russians think he is "more likely to look for scapegoats among local and lower-ranking officials." That way, say political analysts, "he can satisfy public calls for punishment but minimize the political fallout." In a country where "success in business and politics depends on personal ties," the threat of investigations and prosecutions "has led to speculation that a high-level scapegoat might yet be found when the Olympic curtain comes down" on Sunday. Some of the media speculation has focused on PM Dmitry Medvedev, not because of his role in the Olympic preparations, but because "he is widely seen as a potential sacrificial lamb for Putin whenever things start to go badly." Of the oligarchs who have helped Putin with the Games, Russian Railways President Vladimir Yakunin "is seen as the most vulnerable after criticism of the high cost of the railway line built from Sochi to Krasnaya Polyana in the Caucasus mountains" (REUTERS, 2/20).

To help ensure that "foreign visitors can enjoy the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics without concern," Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe said that he will "focus on making the city safer from disasters, improve access to public transportation and even encourage residents to brush up on their English conversation skills," according to Masaaki Kameda of the JAPAN TIMES. Masuzoe said, "Above all, we have to make solid preparations for disasters to avoid casualties,” including retrofitting facilities to make them more quake-resistant. Masuzoe: “I’d like to eliminate possible problems for visitors from abroad coming to Tokyo (for the Olympics) in six years, one by one.” For starters, Masuzoe said that transportation guides at Narita Airport "should be improved." He added that he would "like to review the schedules of public transportation systems" linking central Tokyo and nearby Haneda Airport "to make sure they align with late-night flight arrival times" (JAPAN TIMES, 2/20).

Four years after Canada hosted the Vancouver Games, its Olympic committee is in the midst of transforming its business operations. Canadian Olympic Committee CEO Chris Overholt, who joined the organization in '11, has hired a new senior leadership team, more than doubled the size of its staff from 38 to 100 employees, expanded its sponsorship support and increased its licensing revenue. Overholt said, “(Vancouver CEO) John Furlong and his team saw the potential of what the Olympics could mean for the country. It was a watershed. All we’ve been doing since is making sure that it wasn’t a wasted opportunity.” When the former NFL Miami Dolphins chief marketer joined the COC, the organization was just exiting its joint-marketing agreement with the Vancouver Games. The agreement meant the national Olympic committee let the host city manage sponsorship sales in the market for seven years before the Games. They shared the revenue. Overholt hired one of Vancouver’s sales execs, Allison Walker, and they worked to retain some of Vancouver 2010’s sponsors. They renewed deals with Hudson’s Bay Co. (apparel), RBC (finance) and Bell (telecom). Then they added deals with Canadian Tire, adidas and three USOC sponsors: BMW, USG and Hilton. Overholt: “We looked at the United States and tried to think where can we go and say, ‘You can take a position around North America.’” He added that the combination of new and existing deals makes total sponsorship revenue greater than it was for the COC during the Vancouver Games. Sponsorship revenue is up 100%.

FINDING NEW SUPPORT: Overholt said, “Two things happen in Olympic host nations after a Games. Government support stops, and the private sector has exhaustion around the Olympic movement. It was the opposite in our case. In the two or three years after Vancouver, we were able to grow the revenue from the private sector.” In addition to corporate support, Canadian Olympic sports also get government funding. The government started a non-profit program called “Own the Podium” before the Vancouver Games to fund Olympic hopefuls in their pursuit of medals. It’s continued to fund that since '10. The most important corporate partners the COC has signed since Overholt arrived are Hudson’s Bay and adidas. Hudson’s Bay develops apparel for the team, and adidas develops footwear and performance apparel. The two have helped build the COC’s licensing business, which Overholt expects to be a $5M-$10M business annually in the coming years. Overholt: “In Canada, that’s big business. That rivals major sports brands” (More at SBJ's On the Ground Blog).

The Ukrainian Olympic Committee on Thursday denied media reports "of an athlete exodus" from the Sochi Olympics "due to the violent clashes" on the streets of Kiev that have left a reported 28 people dead, according to R-SPORT. An Olympic Committee spokesperson said, "It’s not true. The whole team is in Sochi and preparing for competitions. One girl has withdrawn from her competition, that’s true, but no one has left the athletes’ village. To be more precise, if someone has left, then that’s only because the competitions for them have finished, so it was scheduled." The only Ukrainian athlete confirmed to have pulled out of a competition in protest is Alpine skier Bogdana Matsotska, "whose father and coach Oleg said on Facebook she would not compete in Saturday’s slalom event" (R-SPORT, 2/20). REUTERS' Karolos Grohmann reported some members of Ukraine's Olympic team "decided on Thursday to leave the Winter Games." IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said, "I believe some of them have decided to return home and (Ukraine Olympic Committee President) Sergey Bubka has said he absolutely respects every individual's right to make their own decision." Ukraine team officials and some athletes "held a minute's silence in memory of the victims and black ribbons were added to Ukraine flags hanging on the balconies of their building in the athletes' village." Adams said that the athlete's departure "was a matter for the Ukrainian team." Adams: "I think his (Bubka's) view was that the team should stay but equally he respects every athletes' decision to do what they think is best in the circumstances" (REUTERS, 2/20).

MATSOTSKA OUT: The BBC reported Matsotska "was set to compete in the slalom." Matsotska: "I have decided not to take part in my favorite discipline because of the horrible events that are happening in the capital of my Ukraine. I am not a political person, I am totally out of politics and political parties, but I stand against these horrible actions that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his government are taking against our Ukrainian people" (BBC, 2/20).

Australia’s most senior Olympic official, John Coates, "has warned that no more money will be available to plough into developing winter sports champions" for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, according to John Lehmann of NEWS LIMITED NETWORK. But he said he was “very encouraged” by the team’s performance in Sochi, despite being likely to fall just short of the team’s “four to five” medal goal. Coates, the IOC VP, also "praised Russia for its staging of the Games," saying they had been “remarkably successful.” Coates: “It has been quite something to have the head of the country (president Vladimir Putin) present virtually the entire Games.’’ Coates said that the number of top-10 results delivered by Australian athletes in their late teens and early 20s "would set up the team for the next Games." However, Coates said the independently-funded AOC and federal government had “no more money to throw at it.” He said Australia had “nowhere near the funds that Great Britain was throwing at sport,” but the Olympic Winter Institute and the state sports institutes were delivering “good value for money” (NEWS LIMITED NETWORK, 2/20). In Melbourne, Will Brodie wrote the Winter Olympics hockey tournament "showcases the world's finest players and features fierce rivalries" between nations like Russia, Canada and the U.S. The finals are "appointment TV" and with the extra channels and computer viewing options available these days, "will get wider exposure down under than ever before." Does such supposedly priceless exposure "convert fleeting fans of winter sports to become diehards after the Olympics?" In the case of ice hockey, "it depends who you talk to." Ice Hockey Australia VP and Melbourne Mustangs VP Andy McDowell said that the effect of the quadrennial showcase on long-term playing numbers "is always short-term and overrated." Melbourne Ice President and manager of the Australian women's ice hockey team Emma Poynton "is more bullish." She said Sochi is "proving to be a good promotional tool" and the free-to-air coverage of men's and women's ice hockey has helped Australians become more aware of her sport (THE AGE, 2/20).

SportsBusiness Daily/Journal have converted their On The Ground blog into a comprehensive, daily website devoted to the Sochi Games and the business behind it. The site is free and runs through Monday, Feb. 24, the day after the Closing Ceremony. The site also can be accessed through the On The Ground link on SBJ Olympics writer Tripp Mickle is in Sochi providing news updates, people profiles and personal insights from the Games. Entries currently on the blog include:

USOC digital views nearly top London, Vancouver combined

TD Ameritrade puts miles, money into Olympic hopefuls

NBC's Tuesday rating down, moving net's Sochi average closer to Turin

Podcast: A fun conversation with Yahoo's Puck Daddy, Greg Wyshynski

Liberty Mutual creates 'instant' Sochi ad off Twitter feedback

South Korean PM Chung Hong-won "embarked on a trip to Sochi Thursday for talks" with Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev and IOC President Thomas Bach to promote PyeongChang as the host for the next winter Games. Chung is scheduled to meet with Bach "to explore ways to cooperate for the successful holding of the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympics" in '18 (YONHAP, 2/20). ... Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics Organizing Committee Chair Yoshiro Mori criticized Japanese figure skater Mao Asada on Thursday, and said that "her failure in her individual short program the day before could be traced to her participation in the new team event." Mori: "I went to see Mao-chan do her best for us (in the team competition), but she flopped spectacularly" (KYODO, 2/20).