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Volume 7 No. 126

On The Ground: Winter Games

Most Olympic sponsors go to extraordinary lengths to develop fresh angles around each Games, but for longtime official timekeeper Omega, consistency and reliability are the point.

So once again, the Swatch Group luxury brand is activating at the Olympics through an elegant commercial campaign starring top-tier athletes like Shaun White, ads and showcases in or near boutiques, and press tours designed to get coverage of its timing systems. A special highlight this year is a Seoul exhibition on the history of its timing tools at the Games.

Omega CEO Raynald Aeschlimann
Photo: Ben Fischer

“Athletes look at their results and they smile or look down, but they trust totally,” said CEO Raynald Aeschlimann, conducting interviews from the seaside St. John’s Hotel in Gangneung. “I think this is one of the qualities and incredible sign of trust we should have, and we should keep it that way and not create any kind of marketing coup.”

Swiss-based Omega last year signed an extension to its International Olympic Committee deal through 2032, joining NBC as the only two partners with deals that long. Aeschlimann said that’s another reason he can play the long game, knowing he doesn’t need to sell a watch to someone in just the current Olympic cycle, but rather to establish and maintain a brand association of reliability and class over time.

One day after interviewing Aeschlimann, I joined Omega’s second in-venue tour of its timing equipment. These tours are crucial to the overall plan, and they require sign-off from the IOC to get access to venues where athletes are practicing, in this case the Gangneung speedskating oval. About a dozen Omega employees or PR consultants joined a group of journalists, and Omega also made available an interpreter for non-English-speaking reporters.

Aeschlimann said Korea is an excellent location for the Games as its residents’ wealth and shopping culture has grown.

“Here they’ve very, very loyal,” he said. “And here they’re very big consumers of luxury goods.”