Comcast, Intel golden after Games
As Published in SportsBusiness Journal
By Ben Fischer, as published 3/5/2018 in Sports Business Journal
Comcast and Intel, two first-time Olympics sponsors, led the field in picking the right athlete endorsers at the Pyeongchang Winter Games.
Out of the 10 American athletes signed by Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA; NYSE: CCZ) in the fall, all 10 qualified for the Games and seven of them won a total of eight medals — six of those golds. Comcast was one of two U.S. Olympic Committee sponsors to sign 17-year-old snowboarder Red Gerard, who flew below the radar until Pyeongchang.
Intel (Nasdaq: INTC), a global sponsor, went five-for-six. Its stable of athletes included three Americans and one each from China, Japan and South Korea. The five medalists included Japanese snowboarder Ayumu Hirano, who finished second to Shaun White; Chinese short-track speedskater Fan Kexin; and American ice dancers Maia and Alex Shibutani.
Hershey’s Ice Breakers brand (NYSE: HSY) also did well, despite misfiring with 2014 gold-medalist freestyle skier Joss Christensen, who didn’t make the team after an injury. Ice Breakers was the other USOC sponsor to sign Gerard, and like Comcast, also benefited from cross country skier Jessie Diggins’ gold medal.
Comcast looked for athletes currently living in Xfinity service territories who could execute from a creative standpoint, said Matt Lederer, executive director of partnership marketing at Comcast. GMR Marketing and U.S. Ski & Snowboard helped target likely medal winners too, he said.
After Diggins won her gold medal with teammate Kikkan Randall, Comcast re-cut its commercial “3am in Afton” to include footage of her race. That was just one of many long nights, Lederer said, that started when Gerard won the U.S.’s first gold medal on day two of the Games.
“It was a really, really fun 17 days,” Lederer said.
Despite Team USA’s lowest medal count since 1998, most brands still left with at least a podium finisher or two. That’s partly because of how consolidated the deals were at the upper tier of athletes — for instance, Jamie Anderson’s two medals delivered for seven different Olympic rings-holders and 10 other sponsors. Also, the team figure-skating bronze won by the U.S. bailed out brands who had done deals with Nathan Chen, who was favored to be on the podium as an individual but still was part of the team competition.
Over the years, Olympic sponsors have shifted their campaigns and spending to before the Games, trying to build personality-based storylines that depend less on results. But medals still matter because they extend the opportunity window, said Octagon founder and President Phil de Picciotto. “Many brands will kind of cover a broad range of athletes and have the option to deepen the campaign if an athlete does well,” he said. “In other words, they’re going to have choices.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Toyota (NYSE: TM) won just one medal, from Chloe Kim, from its 12 U.S. Olympians chosen. Also, Deloitte won two medals from eight Olympic athletes it chose.
Most brands also have Paralympians on their rosters. The Paralympics begin Friday.