Sponsors launch huge Olympics marketing initiative

Mariel Zagunis
Published: .
Updated: .

The one-year countdown to the Sochi Winter games started Wednesday, and now the sponsors are activating their marketing plans. Former Olympians are part of the strategy.

A photo op with an Olympian, a chance to virtually compete and even touch a real gold medal are exclusive opportunities for employees of a new Olympic sponsor.

Seven cities held similar events to celebrate Liberty Mutual's recently announced four-year sponsorship of Team USA. The USOC raises the private money for american athletes who often internationally compete against government funded programs.

"It definitely helps us feel like we are supporting Team USA," said Amy Lohss, Liberty Mutual employee.

"I'm not so sure that people do understand all that is behind the Olympic committee and the athletes and all that it takes to support the financial needs that are out there," said John McKenna, Liberty Mutual chief information officer.

Three-time Olympian Mariel Zagunis, who attended Notre Dame, is now ranked first in the world in sabre, a smaller sport. Liberty Mutual is new, but Nike has stuck with her for eight years.

"It's so important to have these sponsors on board because it's not only doing it to get their name out there but they are doing it because they care about the athletes," said Zagunis.

"It means a lot to all the athletes to have that," she added.

The price tags are in the millions and increasingly for sponsors want to make sure they are getting credit. That includes photo ops, interviews and social media to tell their own Olympic story in Sochi.

"Some of our athletes on Team Kellogg have been over there competing already you can follow their journey on the Kellogg Facebook page to kind of see behind the scenes and see what it's like preparing for Russia because there is a lot going on now," said Kristi Yamaguchi, Olympic ice skater.

Sponsors pay for the satellite time to link their brand with red, white and blue. The expertise also builds excitement in their investment, like a potential duel in hockey.

"Clearly the Canadians will be the favorites with the USA right on their tails," said Mike Eruzione, hockey Olympian.

For sponsors to capitalize they need coordinated marketing and public buy-in. Liberty Mutual is starting with its 50,000 employees.

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