Branding the World of Sports

Posts Tagged ‘Winter Olympics’

Which Olympians will emerge as stars from Vancouver?

Posted by ZA on February 17, 2010

The 2010 Winter Olympics are underway and the early returns suggest that approximately 10% more Americans are tuning into NBC this year as compared to Turin 2006.  That increase in exposure is sure to be matched by the increased attention this year’s Olympics will receive on the internet.  Remember that Twitter and Facebook were not around in 2006 to bring us breaking news the Winter Games.  So overall these Winter Olympics should do a lot more to promote their athletes than any previous Winter Games.

So the next logical question is which athletes will benefit the most from the increased exposure in Vancouver?  Already these games have made a household name out of Nodar Kumaritashvili, who tragically died in a luge accident on the day of the Opening Ceremonies.  In a more positive story we’ve been introduced to Canadian skier, Alexandre Bilodeau and his brother Frederic, who was born with cerebral palsy but is an inspiration for his brother.  Alexandre won the first gold medal of these Olympics for his home country of Canada.

So we already have names from Vancouver 2010 etched into our consciousness.  But which Olympic athletes are we still going to be talking about 3 months after the 2010 Games are done?  AdAge broke down a few of the Winter Olympics athletes that they believe have the best chance for post-Olympics marketing success.  Here is their take on the stars likely to be created from the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver:

Gold medal
* Lindsey Vonn – If she overcomes injury to medal, then she’ll be able to write her own ticket to endorsement fame.
* Apolo Anton Ohno – Already done spots for Coke, McDonald’s and Nestle.
* Sidney Crosby – Young star has appeal in Canada (his home country) and US (plays for Pittsburgh Penguins).

Silver medal
* Shaun White – Already a major marketing force, has endorsed Amex & HP.
* Shani Davis – Another star who already rakes in nice money from companies like Nike.
* Johnny Weir & his fellow US men’s figure skaters – Could be big names in they bring home the gold.

Bronze medal
* Bode Miller – Former bad boy can now become the model for redemption.
* Rachael Flatt – Who?  She’s the United States best hope in women’s figure skating.  A medal will catapult her.
* Kris Freeman & Brian McKeever – Stories of overcoming great obstacles.

Who do you think will be the breakout marketing star for the Vancouver Winter Olympics?

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Do you know Mark Grimmette?

Posted by ZA on February 11, 2010

Do you know this guy?

Most American sports fans have probably never heard the name, Mark Grimmette.  But Mark is a name you need to know because he has been selected by the USOC to carry the American flag at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Grimmette is a luger who competes in doubles luge with his partner Brian Martin.  Grimmette’s team won an Olympic bronze medal in the 1998 Winter Games and a silver medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.  More here on him at this Wikipedia page about Mark Grimmette.

I’ll admit that I had never heard of him before today, but I also probably do not know 95% of the athletes at the Winter Olympics.  It is an honor for Grimmette to carry the US flag; so I congratulate him and hopes he brings home the gold.

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Winter Olympics needs more marketable athletes

Posted by ZA on November 16, 2009

Quick name 5 athletes that will compete in the upcoming Winter Olympics…

Now name 5 athletes that competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing…

Which was easier to do?  Majority of people (especially in the United States) will be able to name athletes who compete in the Summer Games.  Very few will know the names of more than a couple of athletes who compete in the Vancouver Winter Olympics.  Why?  Because the sports and athletes of the Winter Games are not as marketable in the United States.  Luge, Curling and Bobsled don’t have the same appeal to U.S. viewers as events at the Summer Olympics.  Even the marquee events in the Winter Games, Ice Hockey, Figure Skating & Skiing, are not as popular as the top events at the Summer Olympics (Basketball, Swimming & Gymnastics).

Even on a global scale, names like Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Kerry Walsh and Rafael Nadal are much more recognizable than their counterparts in the Winter sports.  Certain Scandinavian people will recognize the names of their top skiers.  But will US sports fans know any Winter athletes beyond Shaun White, Sasha Cohen and Apolo Ohno?  The average fan on the street in New York City knows Phelps and Bolt but is unlikely to know big Winter Games athletes like Lara Gut and Felix Gottwald.

The problem is that less recognizable athletes mean less dollars for their sports and the Winter Olympics in-general.  Sponsors will spend more on the Summer Games and swimming because of Phelps, Natalie Coughlin, Stephanie Rice & Kirsty Coventry.  The IOC needs to work harder to build the images of their Winter Games athletes.  They need to develop top-line stars that rival the top names at the Summer Olympics.  The IOC needs to get more sponsors to promote the Winter Olympic athletes like Visa is doing with Lindsey Jacobellis and Julia Mancuso in their Go World campaign.

The IOC also needs to cultivate more athletes who come from the X Games; the athletes that appeal to a younger generation.  Shaun White will be one of the most recognizable athletes at Vancouver 2010.  White’s early success in the X Games made him popular enough to earn commercial endorsements from American Express and HP.  The exposure from those endorsements took him from a niche sport athlete to a mainstream media star; White is now a household name.  The IOC needs to find more success stories like Shaun White, or build those stories where none exist.

The Winter Olympics will be more popular when their athletes are bigger names.  These athletes are working their butts off for their sports, so few have time to focus on being mainstream success stories.  It is the IOC and their national organizing committees (i.e.- USOC) responsibility to market their athletes.  Doing so and encouraging more sponsors to promote those athletes will eventually build more recognizable names in the Winter Olympics.

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