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Volume 21 No. 39
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Intel targets Games for True VR coming-out party

The Olympics helped popularize color television half a century ago, and Intel Chief Strategy Officer Aicha Evans believes the Games will soon usher in a new “golden age of technology” for sports viewers.


Up first in the spotlight: 5G mobile connectivity, which Pyeongchang 2018 local sponsor Korean Telecom has promised to unveil next month at the Games. Also next month, Olympic Broadcasting Services and NBC promise 55 hours of live virtual reality coverage with unprecedented production values and customization. There are drones, too.


Intel’s marketing challenge: To become synonymous with these cutting-edge developments in how the world consumes media while playing a back-end role for its better-known retail partners that actually bring the product to market. Last year, it signed a seven-year deal with the International Olympic Committee for global sponsorship rights to be certain it could promote itself under a unified Olympics message.


NBC will deliver Intel’s True VR technology to viewers during the Pyeongchang Games.
Photo: INTEL

“When you’re working in the back end, it’s an interesting situation,” Evans said. “Because you’re bringing technology that the users, the Games or the athletes benefit from, so you’ve got to be sure that you get attribution for that.”


That means a lot of planning and cooperation, and not much going it alone.


“You have to do it in a collaborative way with your partners,” Evans said. “So you’re going to see Intel within the Intel showcase, but you’re also going to see Intel represented at other partners’ booths and events and so on.”


In its debut in Korea, Intel will have a showcase pavilion at the Gangneung Olympic Park, and also will operate a lounge at the athletes village. The company has signed five athlete spokespeople, will run a hospitality program and will execute an esports tournament just before the opening ceremony. GMR is running Intel’s on-site programming.


In the run-up, Intel provided an example of its co-marketing with other Olympic corporate partners with its Jan. 8 announcement of its True VR plans for Pyeongchang.


In a coordinated release with NBC, Intel got most of the credit for the work, while NBC reminded viewers that it would be the one to actually deliver the product.


In the weeks prior to the Games, Intel will launch an ad campaign with the tagline “Experience the Moment.” Creative hasn’t aired yet, but the campaign will promote its Intel processors that power the 5G network which, for instance, will allow streaming interactive HD video in the figure skating arena.


Evans said the Olympic deal is allowing Intel to treat the Games as a single corporate initiative on the project side, too. It grew out of the wireless division’s work with KT, which led Intel CEO Brian Krzanich to wonder why Intel wasn’t doing more with the Games.


“When we looked at all that, and all the technologies like VR, the technologies like drones we’re working on, we said, ‘Wait, we can go a lot broader,’” Evans said. Rather than just take the Olympics as a one-off project, he said, why not “use it as a showcase, as a way to deploy on a larger scale emerging technologies? We also looked at doing it over a longer period of time.”


Now, what started as a project for the wireless division involves seven major business groups, including Intel Sports (the division that’s done its recent pro sports league deals in the U.S.), and is being run from the corporate strategy office.


Intel has developed its Olympics campaign with remarkable speed. Many major Olympic sponsors spend years developing an activation plan for a particular Games, but Intel didn’t sign with the IOC until last June. 


“We’re very humble,” Evans said. “Korea is something of a training ground for us. It’s a multiyear partnership and we hope to build upon it in the future.”