By Barry Janoff
April 19, 2012: Team USA's marketing partners rallied around the flag in New York, literally, on April 18 as the countdown to the 2012 Summer Olympics hit the 100-days-out milestone. It was a party to almost rival New Year's Eve in Times Square, featuring Olympic athletes, hopefuls, executives from the U.S. Olympic Committee, sponsors and new marketing activation.
The event was dubbed Hilton HHonors’ Road to London Celebration, but came complete with presence from other USOC and International Olympic Committee marketing partners including Samsung, AT&T, British Petroleum, AmeriTrade, Coke, The Hartford, Omega and McDonald's.
Among the firms that have launched Olympic-themed campaigns in connection with the 100-day countdown are Proctor & Gamble ("Thank You Mom"), Oakley ("Beyond Reason"), McDonald's ("Champions of Play"), Citi ("Every Step"), Kellogg's ("From Great Starts Come Great Things"), BMW and Chobani. Other companies will unveil Summer Game-centric campaigns in the coming weeks.
In addition, the USOC unveiled "Raise our Flag," a program that allows anyone in the U.S. to support Olympic and Paralympic athletes by contributing $12 per stitch on an American flag that will accompany the U.S. Olympic Team to the 2012 Olympic Games.
According to the USOC, people who visit a dedicated Web site can purchase one or many stitches now through July 12, 2012. Every purchased stitch will receive a number and will be honored on the site's Donor Wall, where it can be dedicated to a friend, family member or Team USA athlete. It is being supported by Facebook and Twitter, under the auspices of the USOC and lead agencies Y&R, VML and Cohn & Wolfe.
"The support of Olympic fans and Americans everywhere is what makes our Olympic dreams possible," said Lisa Baird, CMO for USOC. "The campaign is critical to us because, unlike many countries, the U.S. Olympic Team receives no financial support from the government. We rely on the American people and corporate sponsors to support our Olympic athletes. 'Raise Our Flag' not only drives awareness, it tangibly embraces and empowers people to be the team behind the team."
Marketing partners embraced the moment, as well. Chobani handed out samples of its traditional and new flavors of Greek yogurt, the latter including Apple Cinnamon, Blood Orange, Passion Fruit and, for kids, Champions Vanilla Chocolate Chunk and Orange Vanilla. Chobani has retagged its labels to include its status as an official sponsor of Team USA and the 2012 Games.
Topps was giving away 20,000 cards from its upcoming set, the first dedicated to U.S. Olympians since a set from rival Upper Deck for the 1996 Games in Atlanta. Featured are such top athletes as Michael Phelps, Hope Solo and Allyson Felix.
"This is a really exciting time for Topps," said Joe Ribando, the iconic card company's director of player licensing. "We have new product coming out for baseball and the NFL. The set for the London Games is special because with the athletes and hopefuls being featured it is a great way for people to hold a piece of the Olympics in their hands."
Kellogg's offered for photo ops an oversized box featuring swimmer Rebecca Soni, who is one of eight members of Team Kelloggs. The others, who also will be featured on cereal boxes, include Michael Landers (table tennis), Dwight Phillips (track and field), Summer Sanders (swimming legend), Casey Tibbs (Paralympic track and field), Juan Agudelo (soccer), Kerri Walsh (beach volleyball) and Jordyn Wieber (gymnastics).
The USOC's "Raise Our Flag" effort was officially launched by Olympic legends Greg Louganis (diving), Carl Lewis (track & field) and Shannon Miller (gymnastics) and 2008 gold medalist Allyson Felix (track & field). They dedicated the first stitch in the flag to "all U.S. Olympians and Paralympians."
"The Raise our Flag campaign gives every American the opportunity to show their support for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams in a meaningful way while having a direct, positive impact on the athletes," said Scott Blackmun, CEO for the USOC. "Unlike many of the teams our athletes will compete against in London this summer, the U.S. Olympic Team receives no government funding and our athletes rely on individual donations and corporate support. This program invites every American to become a member of the team behind the team."
In the U.K., the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games unveiled the motto for the 2012 Games — "Inspire a Generation" — during a day-long series of nationwide events.
According to LOCOG chairman Sebastian Coe, "With 100 days to go to the start of the Games, millions of people are getting ready to do the best work of their lives and welcome the world this summer . . . Expectations are high, and we won’t disappoint."