By  on February 21, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY -- For brand managers, the Olympics are a culmination of their training and talents almost as much as they are for the athletes.

Whether they are supplying equipment or uniforms for the snowboarders, fast-track skaters or sportscasters, or turning gimmicky with Target cowbells or Salomon Volvos, for brand builders, the Winter Games, with its worldwide audience, provides an unparalleled stage.

As Simon Pestridge, Nike's brand marketing manager, said: "When you look at the Olympics, it's really the Oscars of the sporting world. If we weren't here, we would be doing a great injustice to our brand."

In their effort to be seen, companies are giving their own Olympic performances. There's Target, a non-Olympic sponsor, running ads and commercials during the Olympics, and handing out logoed cowbells -- the cheering device of choice selling for $25 and higher at Park City sporting goods stores. At Miner's Hospital, the meet-and-greet place for Adidas-Salomon, ice sculptures of each logo frame the entrance, an outdoor screen blares Olympic news and indoors, drinks abound. It's bonzo time for buyers, but there's also work to be done.

Jean Luc Diard, president of Salomon, said: "What drives us is to keep on inventing, moving and putting smiles on people's faces. If you just look at the bottom line, you can never have peace in your sense of achievement."

By the time the Games wrap up on Sunday, Nike will have hosted more than 100 retail partners at The Canyons ski resort near Park City. The buyers are checking out events, new Nike product -- like the Swiftskin for speed skaters -- and sighting Olympians such as gold and silver medalist speed skater Derrek Para at its athlete hospitality center in Salt Lake City.

Nearly 50 Nike employees have made the trek to the Utah mountains to tout the brand and schmooze with retailers. The company's investment in this year's Games is slightly more than what was spent at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan, Pestridge said, although he declined to offer actual figures.

Nike even held a pep rally for the U.S. women's hockey team here at a Galyan's store, without the team. Olympic hockey player Cammie Granato's parents told the crowd of 450 and 14 TV stations that they would pass along the well-wishes to the team. Spyder-sponsored skier Tommy Moe, Columbia Sportswear chairwoman Gert Boyle and Black Dot-sponsored snowboarder Jasey Jay Anderson have also turned out at the 94,000-square-foot store during the Games.

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