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Volume 22 No. 49
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USOC’s ‘Power Of’ program builds presence

The Hershey Co. will join the U.S. Olympic Committee’s “Power Of” marketing program that brings consumer product sponsors together under the Team USA banner to seek bigger, better promotions at major retailers.

Hershey, which signed a five-year deal last week to become an official sponsor and confectionery partner to Team USA, will add candy to a 2016 “Power Of” coalition that already includes Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, Procter & Gamble, Chobani and Smucker’s.

“With the collective group, sometimes there were large Olympic-related, Team USA displays right as you walk into the front door of a retailer,” said Jim Hadley, director of partnership marketing at the USOC, discussing the 2012 and 2014 programs. “They wouldn’t have received that big footprint right inside the front door if they were doing it through their own national programs individually.”

The USOC’s roster of 27 domestic sponsors and the 11 worldwide Olympic sponsors with rights in the U.S. run the gamut from behind-the-scenes business consultants to insurance companies. But the everyday consumer goods partners play the leading role in promoting Team USA to the general public, Hadley said.

By combining the consumer-focused brands together with Team USA imagery and marks, the USOC gets a level of promotion and visibility it wouldn’t otherwise receive on individual packaging.

“That added exposure for Team USA, it helps keep the athletes and the Games and the movement top of mind, and that’s what we’re hoping for,” Hadley said.

Hadley and USOC Managing Director Michael O’Conor negotiated with Hershey marketer David Palmer, who got involved in the “Power Of” program in its early days when he led sports marketing at Procter & Gamble. Financial terms were unavailable, but Olympic marketing sources said a sponsor-level deal like Hershey’s is worth between $1 million and $3 million annually.

The USOC’s consumer products sponsors join forces to get retailers to play along.
Aside from approving artwork and bringing the coalition together, the USOC doesn’t play a role in retailer negotiations. The committee’s marketing team convened a meeting in April to discuss plans, but the sponsors will handle direct talks with the stores.

No retail partners are confirmed for 2016. Hershey declined to comment on the particulars of its retail plans pending further discussions. “Hershey and USOC are both important pieces of American culture,” Palmer said when the deal was announced.

Hershey brands included in the USOC sponsorship include Hershey’s, Reese’s, Hershey’s Kisses, Twizzlers, Brookside dark chocolate and Krave premium jerky.

Coca-Cola and the USOC marketing department first developed the “Power Of” concept in West Coast Safeway stores for the 2010 Vancouver Games, Hadley said, and the project has gradually expanded since then. During the 2014 Sochi Games, “Power Of” promotions landed in 20 retailers representing more than half the American grocery market, including Wal-Mart, Kroger and chains owned by Ahold and Delhaize Group, which now plan to merge.

“We are supportive of the USOC finding ways for noncompetitive companies to come together to accomplish a common business objective,” said Janet Fletcher, Procter & Gamble’s director of Olympics and sports marketing. “We have participated in the ‘Power Of’ program with a number of our customers and have had excellent results.”

The 2016 in-store promotions will likely start around the July 4 holiday, Hadley said, taking advantage of the patriotic theme to launch a campaign through the official selection of the U.S. Olympic team and then into the Rio Games, which start Aug. 5.

One new wrinkle to retail promotions: The back-to-school season has migrated earlier into summer in some regions, crowding the July-early August window that the Olympics used to have to itself.