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Volume 21 No. 13
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USOC plans compact WinterFest for ’18 Games

The U.S. Olympic Committee will try a more compact 100-day schedule for its experiential marketing tour ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games after experimenting with nearly yearlong programs for the Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 cycles.

Dubbed “Team USA WinterFest,” the 13-city tour won’t start until a major Times Square event on Nov. 1, the 100-day countdown mark. It then will continue through the Games, ending in Lake Placid, N.Y., on the closing weekend.

For years, the USOC has tried to widen the Olympic marketing window, but CMO Lisa Baird said they’re returning to a shorter time frame now to “create more excitement and pop” around Pyeongchang. But also, she said, it’s possible because the USOC has since created a so-called “regular season” of Olympic marketing opportunities centered on actual competitions. Last December, the USOC began packaging certain non-Olympic events as the “Team USA Champions Series.”

“We were trying to create a season with just marketing events, but now we’ve segmented it,” Baird said. “And we’re still telling the story of our athletes and their competition on the road to [the Olympics], throughout the summer and winter. But starting at 100 days [out], that’s going to be reserved for what we call our Games celebration.”

Hershey has acquired the presenting sponsorship in a newly negotiated addition to its core five-year USOC deal. In its biggest Olympics activation to date, Hershey’s will bring a “S’moresmobile” to every stop to give away full-sized s’mores to fans. It also will operate a “bobsled boomerang” that will simulate a bobsled ride and capture it for social media, and have naming rights to the musical performance stage. One stop on the tour will be at Hershey headquarters to reach Hershey employees and local residents.

Hershey wanted to back the tour because it offers an in-person connection that’s important to the brand, said David Palmer, director of partnership marketing and planning. With the Games 6,000 miles away, this winter cycle will be experienced by most fans via television and social media.

“If you think about how people enjoy s’mores, it’s about coming together and that close bond,” Palmer said. “It really feels like it’s a natural fit.”

Hershey also suggested one stop at the flagship store of Walmart, a crucial retail partner for Hershey and several other USOC consumer packaged goods sponsors.

USOC sponsor Mondelez International will activate its rights for the first time, with its Oreo brand sponsoring the Team USA social media truck — which will facilitate fan social posting from the tour — and the Team USA Curling Challenge. Also, global Olympic sponsor Samsung will power a virtual reality station where fans can experience the sport of skeleton in a life-sized snow globe.

Including a small pilot effort before the Vancouver Games in 2010, this is the fifth experiential campaign orchestrated by the USOC. In the tour leading into the 2016 Rio Games, 484,000 people attended over 18 days in nine cities.

Wasserman is developing the tour.