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Volume 20 No. 42


BMW’s promotion of “Drive for Team USA” events around the London Games helped it sell more than 6,000 new cars.

More than 300 dealerships nationwide participated in the promotion, sending fliers to prospective BMW buyers offering them a chance to attend a special test-drive event and receive a limited-time $1,000 allowance toward the purchase of a new vehicle. The company had a member of Team USA at each of the events and made a $10 donation to the U.S. Olympic Committee for every test drive taken. The promotion was focused on the company’s 3 and 5 Series models.

More than 26,535 people turned out to test drive cars, and BMW converted approximately 25 percent of those drivers into buyers of approximately 6,633 new cars. Sports marketing experts say a successful conversion rate for most sponsorship programs typically is 10 percent.

BMW’s cars range in price from $30,650 to $113,100, and the average price of its current 29 cars and SUVs is $63,251. As a result, total sales tied to the “Drive for Team USA” program exceeded $150 million.

BMW offers test drive promotions every summer. The number of people who test drove cars was up 47 percent from 2010, which was the last time BMW ran a test-drive promotion tied to its USOC sponsorship. BMW didn’t track conversion rates for the 2010 program.

The car manufacturer signed a six-year agreement with the USOC valued at $4 million a year in July 2010.

Trudy Hardy, manager of marketing communications and consumer events at BMW of North America, said the company tracks sales on a 12-month basis and expects this year’s 25 percent conversion rate to increase in the coming months.

“As a car company, we always do a summer sales event, but this was a great way to tie in with the Olympic movement,” Hardy said. “It generated such a spirit and energy. It really gave us a great message and allowed all of our dealers to operate under a great umbrella.”

In addition to sending out targeted marketing to potential buyers, BMW took a fleet of its cars to the headquarters of USOC partners such as Nike, AT&T, Dow and others and allowed their employees to test drive them. It was the first time BMW had done that, Hardy said.

The company complemented those promotions with advertising on NBC during the Olympics and market-specific offerings during the U.S. Olympic trials. During the USA Swimming trials in Omaha, Neb., it gave away 100 tickets to BMW owners and offered VIP parking near the arena for BMW owners.

It also used its Olympic sponsorship to promote sales across its dealerships nationwide. The top 40 dealers were invited to London for the Olympics over the summer. They were taken to the English countryside and then taken to a series of events ranging from the opening ceremony to swimming to men’s basketball.

Hardy said the company plans to continue to leverage its USOC partnership in promotions. It recently invited top dealers to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., where they were able to test drive the auto manufacturer’s new 3 Series.

The company worked on its London Games promotions with Octagon, its sports marketing agency; Fleishman-Hillard, its public relations agency; and Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal and Partners, its creative agency.

The U.S. Olympic Committee for the first time has begun selling annual advertising packages to sponsors and nonsponsors across its digital network of 22 websites, which includes and a host of national governing bodies.

The organization is offering three packages that range in price from $10,000 to $50,000 for the year and promises to deliver 800,000 to 4.2 million impressions, depending on whether an advertiser makes a tier one, tier two or tier three buy.

The sales effort is part of a major push by the USOC to catch up with other sports properties in the digital space. It follows a seven-figure investment the USOC made this year in redeveloping its website and a push to provide more editorial content and features during the London Games to increase unique visitors. The organization historically included digital advertising in its sponsorship packages. Now it is trying to monetize its site and traffic by selling digital ads to sponsors, which it began doing last April, and selling advertising outside its family of sponsors for the first time.

The USOC shared its sales plans with sponsors during a Nov. 8 partner summit in Chicago. It also plans to approach brands that don’t compete with existing sponsors and offer them a chance to buy advertising on the site, much the same way the NHL and other professional leagues do.

USOC Chief Marketing Officer Lisa Baird said the organization will sell the ads in-house and won’t hire an outside agency to assist with sales. Mary Clare-Brennan, director of business development, and Julie Morris, digital media business development, will lead the sales effort.

“We’re just at the beginning of this,” Baird said. “This [digital sales] is something the NFL started a decade ago and the NBA started 15 years ago. We’re still learning and figuring out how it will work.”

The USOC also is open to selling quarterly advertisements, sponsorships of specific editorial content, and product integration. The organization took its sponsors through its offerings and plans, including coverage plans around an editorial platform called “Road to Sochi,” during a sponsor summit in Chicago early this month.

It began selling packages for 2013 before the London Games and has quarterly sales goals it’s trying to meet.

“Selling outside the sponsor family is a change,” said Sarah Hollis, senior director of digital media and broadcast services. “You won’t see competitors to our sponsors on the website because [the sponsors] have expressed interest in advertising, but we are selling in open categories and to endemics in the [national governing bodies’] sports that are on the platform.”

The USOC worked with VML, a full-service digital agency and division of Young & Rubicam, and last March launched a new version of The site features large images laid out in a collage format similar to Pinterest.

The site’s traffic soared during the London Games. Monthly unique visitors jumped 82 percent to 2.5 million. The organization’s sales deck projects it will have 4 million monthly page views and 700,000 monthly unique visitors in 2013. Its YouTube channel, which has 29,000 subscribers, is projected to get 9 million views.

The organization sold Games-time packages to existing sponsors Coca-Cola, DeVry and Procter & Gamble. Each paid to brand a section on the organization’s website.

In a sales deck, the USOC says packages for 2013 can be customized. Buyers will receive ads on the organization’s home page and on home pages of participating national governing bodies.

The USOC has spent more than six months signing agreements with NGBs to make them members of the organization’s digital network. The new agreements, which cover the 2013-16 quadrennium, will see the USOC pay each NGB $25,000 to $150,000 annually to operate and sell advertising on participating websites.

Currently, the USOC has deals with 21 NGBs, including USA Bobsled & Skeleton and USA Wrestling. Baird said the organization will close more deals before the end of the year.

“We’re still in the process with a number [of NGBs],” she said. “I’ve told them we have to be done by January.”

The U.S. Olympic Committee is retiring the USA five-ring logo that sponsors have featured on products ranging from beer to yogurt to shampoo during the last 25 years.

The organization will require sponsors to use a new mark featuring the U.S. flag and the Olympic rings to identify their support of Team USA during the Sochi Games and subsequent Olympics.

USOC sponsors began using the USA five-ring logo in 1988 and have put it on everything from business cards and stationery to apparel and consumer products over the years. The organization is doing away with that logo to comply with International Olympic Committee standards, which don’t allow national Olympic committees to use abbreviations such as USA in their official marks. Other countries use their flags instead, and the USOC opted to take the same approach in designing a logo that features the U.S. flag and the five rings. The logos were designed in-house.

“We did some research on this mark and saw that both consumers and marketers liked it and accepted it,” said Patrick Sandusky, the USOC’s chief communications officer. “It was a chance to get in line with the Olympic charter. We have an opportunity to unify our logos and build over the long term.”

USOC sponsors can choose from two logos. One features the U.S. flag above the traditional, multicolor Olympic rings. The other features it above a solid, navy blue set of rings.

Sponsors and Olympic marketers said the change won’t have a major impact on them. The USOC is allowing them to phase the logo in gradually over the next 14 months before the Sochi Games, and they have plenty of time to incorporate it into new creative and products. They said the cost of changing logos on stationery and other items would be negligible, but it will take time before people recognize it.

“It’s great that the USOC is doing this branding exercise and making sure their logo is more contemporary and consistent in look, tone and feel,” said Michael Lynch, a former Visa sports marketing executive who is now an independent consultant. “The challenge on it is that companies who have invested heavily in the USOC are being asked to use a new logo after having composite logos with another mark. It will take some time to build brand equity in the new logo. Sochi isn’t foremost on people’s mind, so when [the logo] comes in it will look new and fresh and be in the front of people’s minds.”