By Barry Janoff
March 7, 2016: Putting strong emphasis on its athletes and competition, but also paying close attention to such issues as water pollution and the Zika virus, the U.S. Olympic Committee said that the 2016 Summer Games would be the "most watched and most marketed" Olympics ever.
With just five months to go until the Opening Ceremonies on Aug. 5 in Rio de Janeiro, the USOC is overseeing a multi-day summit in Los Angeles this week that will bring together more than 100 Olympic and Paralympic athletes, representatives from the USOC, NBC, marketing partners and members of the media.
"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 on Monday (March 7). "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.
As part of its upcoming events, the USOC and it partners will hold a Road to Rio Tour, presented by Liberty Mutual Insurance, which will have stops in six cities.
A 100 Day Countdown event is scheduled for April 27 in New York's Times Square.
Worldwide sponsors include Atos, Bridgestone, Coca-Cola, Dow, General Electric, McDonald's, Omega, Panasonic, Sansung, P&G and Visa.
Domestic partners include 24 Hour Fitnes, Adecco, Airweave, AT&T, BMW USA, British Petroleum, Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser) Chobani, CIti, Deloitte, Dick's Sporting Goods, The Hartford, Hershey, Hilton, JetSet, Kellogg's. Liberty Mutual, Nike, Oakley, Ralph Lauren, Smucker's, TD Ameritrade, United and USG.
According to Scott Blackmun, USOC CEO, "Every single Games brings its own unique set of challenges that cause people to question whether the Games should have been awarded to them."
Of utmost urgency now as the clock ticks down are such problems as water pollution and the Zika virus.
The USOC last week formed an Infectious Disease Advisory Group to assist the USOC in "identifying and establishing best practices regarding the mitigation, assessment and management of infectious disease, paying particular attention to how issues may affect athletes and staff participating in the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games."
"Rio has taken a lot of steps to clean up pollution in the (water)," said Blackmun. "It's not clean year. It's not perfect. But it's getting better."
Regard the Zika virus and its impact on U.S. athletes, Alan Ashley, chief of sport performance for USOC, said that the organization's main emphasis has been to communicate and educate.
"In the end, it has to be the athletes' decision (whether to go to Rio or not),' said Ashley. It's their Olympic Games. They are the ones who qualified. The best thing we can do is provide them (with) as much clear information as we can for they and their families to make the very best decision(s)."
The summit is providing a strong spotlight on Los Angeles, which has been selected by the USOC as the bid city to represent the U.S. to host the 2024 Summer Games. The International Olympic Committee is scheduled to select the host for those Games in September 2017 from among Los Angeles, Paris, Rome and Budapest.
Los Angeles hosted the Summer Olympics in 1932 and 1984. The U.S. last hosted the Summer Games in 1996 (Atlanta).
"Rio has taken a lot of steps to clean up pollution in the (water). It's not clean year. It's not perfect. But it's getting better."
With that as a backdrop, the USOC was putting its best face forward in preparing for the 2016 Games, to which the U.S. will send 550 athletes to the Olympics and 265 to the Paralympic Games.
"Anyone who has been to Rio knows that it is one of the most special cities (in the world)," said Baird. "People are celebrating that. NBC, which has started their promotion of the Games, is really exciting Americans and the appetite to watch these athletes. It will be all Olympics all the time now. We have to look at what NBC is doing to promote the Games. It is reaching new levels."
NBC’s advertising revenues increased from $850 million during the 2008 Beijing Summer Games to $1.25 billion for the 2012 London Olympics, according to NBC and the 2012 London Olympics, a study from the Harvard Business School.
In 2014, NBC/Universal paid $7.75 billion for the U.S. broadcast rights to the Summer and Winter Olympics from 2020-2032, upping the $4.38 billion the company paid in 2011 to get the rights to the Games between 2014-2020.
NBC has been the exclusive home for the Olympics Games since 2000.
According to Blackmun,"With regard to NBC and televising these Olympics, their entire organization is really excited about this despite some of the challenges that have been encountered preparing the venues. These venues are going to look amazing on television.
"Rio is a city of incredible beauty. Combine that with the fact that it is (just) a one hour time difference for EDS. Viewership is going to be really strong and it will look spectacular on TV and be a great environment for our athletes," said Blackmun.
“We have the most passionate fans in the world, and because of events like 100 Days Out and the Road to Rio Tour, we are able to bring the energy of the Games to more Americans than ever before,” said Baird. “Fans are able to meet these amazing athletes and, through interactive sport elements, grow a deeper appreciation of the dedication and determination it takes to reach the next level, which is all possible thanks to our generous and creative sponsors.”