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Volume 20 No. 42
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USOC marketing around 'Road to London'

Similar to what it did leading to the Vancouver Winter Games, the USOC plans another 100-day-out event at Rockefeller Center that will showcase sponsors and Olympic sports.
The U.S. Olympic Committee has mapped out an ambitious marketing program for the 2012 London Olympics highlighted by plans to activate at Olympic trial events and develop the organization’s first mobile application.

The efforts are part of what the USOC’s marketing department is calling its “Road to London” program, a one-year undertaking that will include experiential and digital marketing initiatives. The organization briefed its partners on the plans in London during a sponsor workshop in early May.

“We’re trying to expand the window of relevant Games activation and deepen engagement with fans leading into the London Games,” said John Pierce, the USOC’s managing director of marketing services. “This gets us out in front, giving us more and earlier opportunities to tell stories of athletes, which is what we believe the brand is centered around.”

In the past, the USOC has looked to sponsors to help underwrite the costs of some of its marketing initiatives. Sponsors and agency consultants in attendance in London said that wasn’t the case with the USOC’s 2012 marketing program and praised the organization for undertaking the effort independently.

“The USOC is taking more control over their brand, whereas in the past they wanted sponsors to take the lead in promoting their brand,” said Gary Pluchino, senior vice president of IMG Olympics, which works with GE, Allstate and other Olympic sponsors. “It’s an integrated strategy, which is new for the USOC, and they have an activation calendar that’s over one year in duration that sponsors can latch onto on the experiential side and the broadcast side and digital side.”

The program will begin this summer with the organization’s “Join Team USA” initiative. USOC sponsor Anheuser-Busch is incorporating the USOC into its activation plans at three summer events — Taste of Chicago, Fair St. Louis and the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. The USOC will bring Olympians to those events and set up fan experiences within A-B’s activation footprint. The on-site activations will be designed to encourage donations to support Team USA.

The USOC plans to build on that in 2012 by activating at seven Olympic Trials events. It will build out multisport experiences at trials for swimming, track and field, gymnastics, diving, wrestling and other events. It marks the first time the organization has set up fan experiences at a trials event, and the goal is to give spectators a sense of other sports in the Olympic family, Pierce said.

It also plans to hold its second, 100-day-out event April 12 at Rockefeller Center. The event will be similar to the one it held before the Vancouver Games and will showcase USOC sponsors and Olympic sports.

On the digital front, the USOC will launch a “Road to London” mobile application for phones and tablets in January. The application will include athlete biographies, news, Olympic Trials information and a daily video report.

The USOC has set a goal of adding 5 million Facebook fans by the end of the 2012 Olympics. It has more than 500,000 fans today, up from 80,000 fans in 2009. Its leaders see Facebook as a critical tool to generating donations, selling merchandise and connecting sponsors with Team USA fans. It will add a donation feature to its Facebook page this summer.

“We have aggressive goals because we think it’s an amazing opportunity for one-to-one communication and engagement with self-proclaimed fans,” Pierce said.