By Barry Janoff
April 25, 2016: Having already counted more than 1,300 days since the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the U.S. Olympic Committee and broadcast partner NBCUniversal have another figure in mind: 100 days until the Open Ceremonies for the 2016 Games on Aug. 5 in Rio de Janeiro.
The milestone is being celebrated on April 27, which will see the official Road to Rio Tour Presented by Liberty Mutual make a daylong stop at an Olympic Festival in Times Square New York's Times Square.
April 27 will also see the launch of a multi-media, multi-platform campaign from NBCUniversal, which said it would mark the occasion with a "company-wide celebration that will utilize its unprecedented collection of broadcast, cable, affiliate, regional, digital, social, radio, Spanish-language, and thee park assets."
Despite numerous problems in the host nation and city — including unsafe water, the Zika virus, high crime and unemployment rates, financial challenges and transportation issues — the USOC has already declared the Rio Games to be the "most marketed Olympics ever," which NBCU has substantiated that claim by exceeding $1 billion in ad sales, with more sales on various platforms still to come.
In addition to presenting Road To Rio tour sponsor Liberty Mutual Insurance, six associate sponsors will have a significant presence in New York during the 100-day countdown event, including airweave, AT&T, BP, Citi, Kellogg’s and Samsung. Other official USOC partners will also have a presence, including Bridgestone, which is presenting a Toast to Team USA preview party in the Museum of Modern Art tonight (April 26).
NBCU is also collaborating with the U.S. Olympic Committee on its 100-day celebration efforts.
"We can say this is one of the most marketed games ever for both Olympic and Paralympic Games," Lisa Baird, CMO for the USOC, said during a media event in the Beverly Hills Ballroom in March. "We have 39 sponsors and we work very closely with them to develop their promotions. And I can tell you almost every one has something very special planned.
"When that all comes together, what you hope as a marketer is that it really breaks through on the American consciousness," said Baird.
Worldwide sponsors aligned with the International Olympic Committee include Atos, Bridgestone, Coca-Cola, Dow, GE, McDonalds, Omega, Panasonic, Samsung, P&G and Visa.
Domestic Team USA partners include 24 Hour Fitness, Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser), AT&T, BMW, BP, Chobani, Citi, Deloitte, Dick's Sporting Goods, The Hartford, Hershey, Hilton, JetSet, Kellogg's, Liberty Mutual, Milk Life, Nike, Oakley, Ralph Lauren, Smucker's, Ameritrade, United Airlines and USG.
“The market is very healthy and bullish on the Olympics as evidenced by the fact that we’ve surpassed the $1 billion mark four months ahead of London," Seth Winter, evp-advertising sales for NBC Sports Group, said in a statement. "Advertisers know that integrating their brands in front of Olympic viewers is good for their businesses. We continue to expect to set the Olympic record for national ad sales.”
NBC’s ad revenues increased from $850 million during the 2008 Beijing Summer Games to $1.25 billion for the 2012 London Olympics, according to a study from the Harvard Business School.
“The value of live, big-event programming is more important than ever to advertisers because of its ability to reach large audiences," said Winter. "The Olympics’ ability to dominate prime time for 17 consecutive nights is unmatched. If brands want to reach viewers and their customers in the third quarter, they have to be in the Olympics.”
NBCU said it would implement a prime time promotional “road block” across its 18 broadcast and cable networks. Each of the 18 networks is scheduled to air an Olympic promo spot within the 8 PM (local time) hour. That includes Golf Channel, which is focusing on the sport's return to the Olympics for the first time since 1904.
The celebration will also involve NBCU’s radio network and 40-plus Web sites, anchored by NBCOlympics.com, as well as Universal Parks & Resorts in Hollywood, Calif., and Orlando, Fla.
“The 100-day celebration is the symbolic start to our massive Olympic marketing campaign,” John Miller, CMO for NBC Olympics, said in a statement. “NBCUniversal’s unprecedented collection of assets will allow us to generate billions of impressions before the Games begin on August 5. Wednesday’s 100-day symphonic celebration is emblematic of how the entire company can mobilize its resources in support of a key priority — in this case the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.”
The USOC and IOC long have had problems with ambush marketing, and they are attempting to deal with that via a more embracing vision for the 2016 Games.
In order to protect the investments of official IOC and USOC marketing partners, Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter previously prohibited non-official sponsors from broadcasting or placing running ads that featured Olympic athletes during a specified blackout period, which generally lasted from about a before the Opening Ceremonies until the Games themselves were declared over.
A new rule, passed last June, this time allows non-official sponsors to run marketing during the Games and use Olympic athletes if the brands have received approval from the IOC, and also with the stipulation that had to launch no later than March 27 and then run on a continuous basis.
The new rule allows athletes "to continue their long-term promotional relationships with brands, and helps to curtail ambush of our partners," USOC's Baird said in a statement. "It's a new process, but a process we believe is fair to all parties."
Among the brands that applied for IOC approval include Under Armour, which has ads featuring Olympic swimming icon Michael Phelps and members of the women's gymnastics team; General Mills, which has endorsement deals for its Wheaties brand with athletes including swimmer Missy Franklin and sprinter Allyson Felix; adidas, Asics, Brooks Running, Gatorade, GoPro, Johnson & Johnson, MilkPEP (Built With Chocolate Milk), Red Bull, Skechers and Speedo.
Even if they run Olympic-oriented marketing, non-partners can not use numerous symbols and logos or a lenghty list of terms trademarked by the USOC that can be used only by official partners. The list includes Olympic, Olympian, Team USA, future Olympian, Gateway to Gold, Go for the Gold, Going for the Gold, Let the Games Begin, Paralympic, Road to Rio and Rio 2016.
Federal law also prohibits unauthorized use of simulations of Olympic, such as aqualympics, biolympics, Chicagolympics, radiolympics and mathlympics.
Among activations at the 100-day countdown event in New York:
• Airweave's space is scheduled to feature Paralympic swimmer Jessica Long and gold medal ice skating dance team Meryl Davis and Charlie White; as well as interactive gaming. In addition, airweave will offer a first-hand look at the innovation behind its product, which is helping Team USA athletes like Ryan Lochte reach their peak performance.
• AT&T plans to connect fans in a unique way with their favorite AT&T-sponsored Olympians and Paralympians as they prepare for the Rio Games – the 32nd year AT&T has worked with the United States Olympic Committee.
• BP said people can visit their tent for a chance to win gold, silver or bronze prizes while learning about its new fuel.
• Citi will give people with an opportunity to send a message and picture of support to Team Citi athletes, with each photo used to create a composite mosaic image of the Team Citi athletes, which will be displayed live onsite via a large LED board and ultimately sent to all Team Citi athletes. People who participate will receive Team USA giveaways and an e-mail containing their photo, with a link to the mosaic image after the event.
• Liberty Mutual Insurance will presents its Medal Pavilion, which highlights the insurance company's role as the "official protector of Team USA’s medals won" as well as meet-and-greet photo opportunities with Team USA athletes.
• Kellogg’s will have food and an interactive experience enabling people to customize their own cereal snack. Visitors can also create a #GetsMeStarted video to share what motivates them to "uncover the possibilities of each new day."
• Samsung will showcase its Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge and also demonstrate the virtual reality capabilities of its smartphones. Olympic-themed VR experiences using Samsung Gear VR and hydraulic chairs will allow participants to see and feel, what it's like to be an "athlete competing at the highest levels of competition."
Among more than 70 athletes scheduled to be in New York include Team USA Legends Willie Banks (track & field), Janet Evans (swimming), Rowdy Gaines (swimming), Shawn Johnson (gymnastics), Jackie Joyner-Kersee (track & field), Carl Lewis (track & field), Carol Lewis (track & field), Nastia Liukin (gymnastics), Shannon Miller (gymnastics) and Dan O'Brien (rack & field).
Among campaigns launched by official Olympic partners:
• 24 Hour Fitness: “Team 24 Hour Fitness,” Gwen Jorgensen (triathlon), Cortney Jordan (Paralympic swimming), Alysia Montaño (middle distance running), Conor Dwyer (swimming) and Lex Gillette (visually-impaired long jumper who won medals in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Games.)
• Bridgestone: Team Bridgestone includes Meb Keflezighi (track & field, marathon), Cullen Jones (swimming), Aly Raisman (gymnastics), Kelley O'Hara (soccer), Khatuna Lorig (archery) and Will Groulx (para-cycling), plus Olympic track & field legend Michael Johnson.
• Chobani: Team Chobani includes Morgan Brian (soccer), Jordan Burroughs (wrestling), Ashton Eaton (track & field), Marlen Esparza (boxing), Allyson Felix (track & field), Luis Gil (soccer), Allison Jones (para-cycling), Alex Morgan (soccer) and Melissa Stockwell (paratriathlon).
• Citi: Team Citi athletes include Nathan Adrian (swimming), Scout Bassett (Paralympic hopeful track & field), Gabby Douglas (gymnastics), Allyson Felix (track & field), Rudy Garcia-Tolson (Paralympic swimming), Carlin Isles (Olympic hopeful in rugby and track & field,) Brad Snyde (Paralympic swimming) and Kerri Walsh Jennings (beach volleyball).
• Dick's Sporting Goods: The company has a roster of nearly 200 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic contenders across 35 sports currently employed at 89 stores in 32 states. Athletes featured in a 60-second commercial, "The Contenders," include Jon Jones (shot put), Jessica Medina (wrestling), Desiree Miller (wheelchair basketball), Laura Ryan (diving) and N'aithan Scott (hurdles).
• Gillette (P&G): "Perfect Isn’t Pretty" features Neymar Jr. (Brazil, soccer), Ashton Eaton (USA, decathlon), Ning Zetao (China, freestyle swimming) and Andy Tennant (Great Britain, Team Pursuit Cycling). Campaign "takes a look behind the curtain, honoring the arduous journey that all Olympians face throughout their training in the pursuit of the Olympic Games."
• The Hershey Company: "Hello Happy. Hello Hershey’s” will "integrate Hershey’s partnerships with USA Gymnastics, seven-time Olympic medalist and gymnastics icon Shannon Miller; and wrestling gold-medalist Jordan Burroughs, Paralympic swimming gold-medalist Mallory Weggemann and U.S. Olympic swimming hopeful David Nolan. Weggemann and Burroughs will be featured in Hershey’s chocolate new campaign. Hershey's has also changed its classic wrapper to red, white and blue for the Games.
• KT Tape: USOC official licensee brand endorsers include Kerri Walsh Jennings (beach volleyball). James Harden (basketball) and Meb Keflezighi (marathon runner).
• McDonald's: McDonald's Olympics Kids Program will "celebrate the spirit of friendship which is a key value of the Olympic Games and include kids from around the world who embody the spirit of friendship. A hundred kids from around the world will be invited to the Rio 2016 Olympics Opening Ceremonies; brand spokespersons include Olympic gymnast legends Bart Conner and Nadia Comaneci.
• PowerAde (Coca-Cola): “Just a Kid” campaign seeks to "inspire by taking a passionate stand for the potential in every young athlete. PowerAde’s roster of Olympians and Olympic hopefuls includes Claressa Shields (women’s boxing), Lopez Lomong (men’s track & field, 1500m) and Shakur Stevenson (men’s boxing).
• Procter & Gamble: A new spot in the company's umbrella Thank You Mom campaign, "Strong," is among a bevy of activations being unveiled.
• Samsung: “A Fighting Chance” documentary tells the "inspiring stories of four athletes defying barriers to pursue their dreams" of competing at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. Miller Pata & Linline Matauatu (beach volleyball) from Vanuatu, an island country in the South Pacific; Tsepo Mathibelle (marathon runner), from Lesotho, South Africa; and Yenebier Guillén Benitez (boxing) Dominican Republic.
• The J.M. Smucker Co.: The company has partnered with seven Team USA athletes (pictured above) including U.S. Olympic champions and current U.S. Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, including Allyson Felix, April Ross, Melissa Stockwell, Conor Dwyer, Ali Krieger, Aly Raisman, and Shawn Johnson.
• Visa: Team Visa includes more than 30 athletes, led by World Cup U.S. women's soccer champion Carli Lloyd, Kerri Walsh-Jennings and world-class Canadian swimmer Ryan Cochrane.
After New York the Road To Rio Tour is scheduled to include:
• June 24-25: Indianapolis, IUPUI campus
• July 6-10: Chicago, Grant Park Taste of Chicago
• July 23-24: Los Angeles, Venice Beach
• Sept. 10: Birmingham, Ala. Lakeshore Foundation Paralympic Lakeshore Foundation
NBC Hits Gold Standard, $1B-Plus In Games Ad Sales
USOC Sees 2016 Olympics As 'Most Marketed Games Ever'
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