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Volume 7 No. 149


UK Sport is being pressured to justify levels of funding given to sports such as bobsleigh.

Funding execs will meet next month to start a review into whether the £32M ($44.8M) handed out to Britain's Winter Olympic and Paralympic sports is the "best use of that money," according to Martyn Ziegler of the LONDON TIMES. UK Sport is "facing pressure to justify the level of funding given to sports such as bobsleigh and speed skating, which have tiny numbers participating, and yet not give a single penny to those such as the British basketball teams because they are unlikely to achieve Olympic success." A meeting of UK Sport's board next month will "kick-start the review" and the funding body said that it is "committed to an open consultation process." UK Sport's existing "no compromise" approach "solely targets medals and awards money based on likely success" -- it has "almost doubled" the £17.8M for winter sports from '14. Critics of the policy, which include members of the board, argue that funding many winter sports is "medal-chasing," which has "little effect on inspiring people to take up sport." UK Sport said that the review will not affect funding for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, as "any significant policy change" would come into effect after the Paris 2024 Summer Games (LONDON TIMES, 2/20).

In packing for the Winter Olympics, Canadian entrepreneur Domenico Ciarallo "stuffed his bags with hats and t-shirts bearing the logo of his company, which makes locker-room dryers," according to Liana Baker of REUTERS. However, he is "wary when handing them out to any Olympians." He said, "The athletes put them in their bag right away but they know that they can’t wear these here because you can get caught not wearing official team merchandise." Ciarallo's Montreal-based Rocket Sport is "among a group of companies, big and small, trying to grab attention at the Pyeongchang Games without infringing on official Olympic sponsors." They also include Apple, camera maker GoPro and Under Armour, which have been "looking for cracks in the IOC's sponsorship wall." Bruin Sports Capital marketing expert David Abrutyn said, "Guerrilla marketing tactics around large-scale events like the Olympic Games are more comprehensive and complex than ever." An IOC spokesperson said, "The IOC and its partners in the Olympic movement take the threat of ambush marketing very seriously." But guerrilla marketing "can still find legitimate opportunities." Brewer Red Stripe "took its golden opportunity" when Jamaica's women's bobsled team "suddenly parted ways" with its coach. Red Stripe gave it the funds to carry on, "earning global news coverage." But the firm "still had to be careful." It created Twitter hashtags #RedstripeToTheRescue and #SleighAllDay, which "skirted its link to the team and made no reference to the Games." Under Armour also helped Nigeria's women bobsledders, "outfitting them and making a documentary ahead of Pyeongchang about the first bobsledders to represent an African country" (REUTERS, 2/20).

The IOC said that broadcasters around the world have beamed 14% "more hours of programming" from the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics compared to the Sochi 2014 Games, according to Karolos Grohmann of REUTERS. IOC Dir of TV & Marketing Timo Lumme said that preliminary data "showed overall output from the Games in South Korea was bigger than at any previous winter Olympics with an average of 130 hours of programming per rights-holding broadcaster." Lumme added that early estimates showed 3 billion people have watched some coverage of the Olympics, which end on Sunday. In the U.S., Lumme said that NBC's coverage during prime time was "bigger than all other competitor networks combined" (REUTERS, 2/20). 

ONLINE STREAMING: NET IMPERATIVE reported Winter Olympics fans spend an average of 2 hours, 24 minutes a day on social media, and one in five are "watching Facebook Live video content on a monthly basis," according to a new report. A global study of 30,755 Winter Olympics fans conducted by GlobalWebIndex identified a "huge area" of advertising opportunity around the ongoing sporting event, with 35% of consumers now watching online. Among Winter Olympic fans, YouTube (89%) holds poll position as the most visited/used platform, followed by Facebook (83%). Monthly, "almost a quarter" have watched a sports video or clip on YouTube and one in five have watched something on Facebook Live (NET IMPERATIVE, 2/20).

OPENING NUMBERS: YONHAP's Chang Dong-woo reported more than 300 million people worldwide are estimated to have watched the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on TV, Lumme said. He added that networks in South Korea, China and Japan carrying the Games have seen "consistent increases in viewership." He noted that 10 million people in South Korea watched the opening ceremony (YONHAP, 2/20).

Ivanka Trump
Photo: getty images

The government is "preparing a VIP welcome" for U.S. President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka, who will travel to Korea for the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Sunday, according to Kim & Ahn of CHOSUNILBO. The government "apparently wants to soften her up so Trump agrees to a mooted visit to Pyongyang by President Moon Jae-in." One key ruling-party lawmaker said, "You can say that Ivanka Trump holds the key to convincing the U.S. government. We will provide all the support we can in terms of diplomatic protocol." Technically, Seoul has "no diplomatic obligation to roll out the red carpet for the child of a U.S. leader," and even the head of a U.S. presidential delegation does not receive the treatment given to a head of state. But a government official in South Korea said, "We are considering exceptional measures by having a high-ranking official greet Ivanka and accompany her during her visit." The Cheong Wae Dae security team will "handle her safety during her visit." Moon "seems minded to greet her cap-in-hand." A presidential official said, "Ivanka enjoys sports and especially skiing, so we are discussing having the president travel to Pyeongchang with her to watch a skiing competition." The government has to "calibrate the red-carpet treatment so it meets at least the welcome given to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's sister Yo-jong," who visited the opening ceremony. The first daughter has "repeatedly been treated as a virtual head of state during visits to other countries" (CHOSUNILBO, 2/19). YONHAP reported South Korea First Lady Kim Jung-sook will "likely" receive Ivanka Trump. Chinese Vice-Premier Liu Yandong will also visit South Korea as Chinese President Xi Jinping's special envoy on a three-day trip from Saturday, which includes attending the closing ceremony of the Olympics. All eyes "are on any message" Ivanka might bring on behalf of her father (YONHAP, 2/19).

ASIAN GAMES: YONHAP reported North Korean IOC member Chang Ung said Tuesday that it is "possible" for the two Koreas to jointly hold the 2021 Asian Winter Games. Chang also said that if that happens, the Masikryong Ski Resort on the outskirts of the North's eastern city of Wonsan "could be used as one of the venues" (YONHAP, 2/20).

CAS opened an investigation into Krushelnitsky's case following a request from the IOC.

A criminal investigation has been opened into how Pyeongchang 2018 medal-winning curler Alexander Krushelnitsky tested positive for meldonium, the Olympic Athletics from Russia team said, according to the BBC. The 25-year-old's B sample also returned a positive test for the banned substance, it was announced on Tuesday. Krushelnitsky won mixed-doubles Bronze with his wife, Anastasia Bryzgalova. The OAR said, "No evidence of the systematic usage of meldonium is available in this particular case." Krushelnitsky said that he has never taken a banned substance and "welcomed the investigation." Krushelnitsky: "I, more than anyone else, am interested in an investigation as soon as possible to find out the reasons for what has happened" (BBC, 2/20).

'ROBBED' OF GLORY: In London, Sean Ingle reported the Norwegian curlers who missed out on a Bronze Medal "due to Russian doping" want Olympics organizers to hold a new podium ceremony for them in Pyeongchang because they feel "robbed of their moment of glory." Norway's team of Magnus Nedregotten and Kristin Skaslien finished fourth in the tournament last week. Nedregotten said that if Krushelnitsky's ban is confirmed, he would like IOC to hold a new ceremony before the Games end on Sunday. Nedregotten: "If he is found guilty, then they've robbed us of our moment of glory, receiving our medal in the stadium" (GUARDIAN, 2/20).

THIRD STRIKE: The IRISH TIMES reported a Slovenian ice hockey player was "thrown out of the Winter Olympics" after a positive drug test, the Court of Arbitration for Sport's anti-doping division announced. Ziga Jeglic was found to have taken fenoterol, which "opens up the airways to the lungs," in an in-competition test (IRISH TIMES, 2/20).

CLOSING CEREMONY: The PA reported the IOC said that Sunday's closing ceremony "will not be overshadowed by a decision on whether or not Russian athletes can march under the Russian flag." An IOC panel is reviewing the sanctions against Russia and "will make its recommendation" to the exec board on Saturday. If the Olympic Athletes of Russia are "ruled to have acted with the letter and spirit of the eligibility procedures," the IOC "may lift the suspension on Russia ahead of the closing ceremony." IOC Dir of Communications Mark Adams said, "There is no way that (decision) can overshadow the closing ceremony" (PA, 2/20).

With the IOC "getting tougher" on unauthorized Olympic marketing, Pizza Hut Korea is "outsmarting the IOC by playing on words" in Pyeongchang, according to Yi Whan-woo of the KOREA TIMES. The company is running a sales promotion, titled "Pyengchang together," during the Pyeongchang Olympics, offering a cheese topping and a 1.25-liter Pepsi for free if customers buy premium pizzas. Literally meaning "inflation" or "expansion," the choice of the word "pyengchang" for the sales campaign comes after the organizing committee asked South Korean companies Kakao Talk, SK Telecom and Shinsegae Department Store to "refrain from alleged ambush marketing." Pizza Hut Korea and all three Korean firms "are not official sponsors" of the Games. A Pizza Hut Korea official said that the "Pyengchang together" campaign aims to offer diverse benefits to customers during the summer season and "has nothing to do with the Olympics whatsoever." The organizing committee said that it has "not taken any action." A POCOG official said, "Using pyengchang is seen as no big deal as long as Olympic symbols and emblems are not used without authorization" (KOREA TIMES, 2/20).