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Volume 23 No. 23
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USOC pushes pre-Games tour two years out

The U.S. Olympic Committee for the first time last week laid out a two-year marketing plan for an Olympic Games.

The plan calls for the USOC to begin its “Road to Rio” marketing activities next year by taking an experiential marketing tour to select festivals and sports events nationwide. It will then roll out a full-scale tour that will visit more than 10 cities and promote the 2016 Rio Games by showcasing sponsors, Olympic sports, athletes and live music.

The tour will be complemented by 10 video series on TeamUSA.org, highlighting athletes and Olympic sports. There also will be an awards show for Olympians in November 2015 that allows fans to vote on the best performances by winter and summer athletes.

The USOC revealed plans for the promotions to sponsors during a summit last week in San Diego. The effort to begin promoting the Rio Games earlier than previous Olympics followed a series of meetings with sponsors, who urged the organization to start its marketing program at least 18 months before the Rio Games.

“There were a few core things we heard [from sponsors], and among them was to provide activation opportunities to flatten out the spikes between the Games,” said Mitch Poll, USOC managing director of partnership marketing. “That was a goal of ours.”

By providing sponsors with their marketing plans earlier, Poll said, the USOC hopes that more partners will support the tour and help underwrite video content on TeamUSA.org. He also hopes that consumer packaged goods sponsors such as Procter & Gamble and Kellogg’s are able to develop in-store promotions that amplify what the USOC is doing.

The plans for the Rio Games further expand the USOC’s pre-Olympics marketing. The organization began hosting experiential marketing events before the 2010 Vancouver Games when it held a 100-day-out celebration in Rockefeller Center. It moved the event to Times Square before the 2012 London Games and then expanded it from a single 100-days-out celebration for the 2014 Sochi Games to a 12-city tour sponsored by Liberty Mutual.

After more than 330,000 people attended the Road to Sochi events, Poll said the organization decided it should expand the tour an entire year before the Olympics. He hopes by doing so that the USOC can raise more awareness and drive more viewership on NBC and merchandise sales around the 2016 Olympic Games.

The USOC hired Olympic gold medalist Nastia Liukin as an official spokeswoman to help its cause and promote the tour. As the first official spokeswoman for an Olympic tour, the gymnast will promote the tour and Team USA ahead of the Rio Games to her followers on Twitter and Facebook.

It is looking to enhance the multicity tour by adding interactive elements like a zip line and actual competitions like 3-on-3 basketball tournaments. It will set up a merchandise tent at each stop for the first time, as well.

“We want to keep our brand strong and grow our fan base,” USOC chief marketer Lisa Baird said. “How do we grow our fan base? We give them more touch points. Everything is designed to engage fans more.”

Baird said USOC research showed that fans wanted to learn more about athletes and how they train for the Olympics. That, combined with sponsor interest in video advertising, led the organization to hire more than five video production companies to develop 10 different video series.

“People connect with videos and our research shows they want to see how these [athletes] are training and what they’re like,” Baird said.