Team USA Sponsors Seek to Support Olympians Despite #SochiProblems

  |  February 11, 2014   |  Comments

Not surprisingly, brands continue to roll out hashtags, microsites, apps, and videos to cater to Olympic excitement. But whether this leads any additional sponsors to get caught up in Sochi controversy remains to be seen.

The Sochi Olympics certainly aren't without controversy and neither are some of the branded efforts so far. However, that hasn't stopped Team USA sponsors from rolling out digital initiatives to capitalize upon the event.

According to social media agency We Are Social, the top overall hashtag for the Winter Olympics from February 2 to 6 includes #Sochi2014, which has a 21 percent share with 344,000 mentions. But it also includes #SochiProblems, which has more than 48,000 mentions.

One brand that has been capitalizing upon the #SochiProblems hashtag is travel rental brand Airbnb, which has used its Twitter account to respond to complaints from journalists and push its own local listings.

But many more efforts allow fans to show their support for Team USA, or simply seek to provide inspiration.

BMW Bobsled

300x250-timetrackerIn its Sochi-themed digital promos, German auto manufacturer BMW is focusing on its relationship with the U.S. bobsled team.

For more than two years, BMW has been working with the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation to redesign the two-man bobsled. In October, a fleet of six BMW U.S. two-man bobsleds were delivered with the hopes of aiding Team USA in its pursuit of its first Olympic gold in the event since 1936, BMW says.

The brand released a documentary about its redesign, Driving on Ice, on January 5 on NBC. No longer available on external channels, the brand says it can be viewed at BMW retail locations nationwide.

"We don't want to just be a sponsor of the Olympics, we want to help improve athlete performance and use technology to help benefit our athletes," says Kate Alini, social media and emerging technologies manager at BMW of North America, of the bobsled collaboration.

Also in January, BMW of North America says it hosted members of the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation and U.S. speedskating teams at its Welt facility in its headquarters in Munich. This was done as part of a good luck send-off from BMW prior to the games.

A banner for Team USA athletes was displayed at the event as a result of the brand's Tweet Your Support campaign, an activation it says was designed to promote support and enthusiasm for the 2014 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams. In the fall, fans were asked to send their well wishes to Team USA on Twitter with the hashtag #BMWtweets4USA. According to Alini, the handles of participating Twitter users were included on the banner with an image of a bobsled that is also housed at the United States Olympic Committee House in Sochi.

According to Alini, the goal was to get 10,000 tweets, which BMW surpassed.

"Really, the athletes were just over the moon to digitally see the support of BMW fans," Alini says.

Also following the bobsled theme, Alini says BMW asked its fans to submit photos or videos of their favorite sled rides with the hashtag #BMWBornToSlide on Twitter, Instagram, Vine, and Facebook from January 16 to February 2.

And yet another bobsled-focused social program is the BMW Time Tracker, a second-screen experience that allows fans to predict the finish time of the U.S. two-man bobsled team's first runs on February 16.

AT&T Apps

itsourtimeappFor its part, communications company AT&T has released a pair of apps, one targeting fans and another targeting athletes.

For consumers, AT&T has released the #ItsOurTime app for Android and Apple devices.

Per Google Play, it has 1,000 to 5,000 downloads as of February 11.

According to Kelly Hackett, director of advertising at AT&T, the app allows fans to record a U-S-A chant with their cameras and Facebook or Twitter log-ins or email addresses.

AT&T says the chants will also be added to a Wall of Support at in real time, as well as in New York City's Times Square on February 15. The brand is also encouraging fans to use the hashtag #ItsOurTime.

"We took our inspiration from our new brand vision - mobilizing a world that works for people. For the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, that means giving people a way to support Team USA through the use of AT&T's products and services," Hackett writes in an email.

"We know that while fans are sitting on the sofa watching the games on NBC, they are also on their mobile or tablet devices. We are tapping into that consumer behavior by giving them a way to engage and interact to show their support for Team USA's inspiring feats of athleticism."

In addition, AT&T says members of Team USA will have an easier time navigating events in Sochi with its Team USA Guide app, which includes calendar updates, logistics, maps, notifications from the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), and a quick reference and resource guide.

Visa's #Everywhere

Also seeking to inspire fans, digital payments network Visa launched "Everywhere you want to be," a spin on its previous tagline, "It's everywhere you want to be," along with a refreshed brand logo in January.

The brand said its new platform will be brought to life in Olympic-themed creative and via social and digital extensions by spotlighting athletes' stories of accomplishment "to help inspire viewers to imagine their own 'everywhere.'"

The message is reflected with the hashtag #everywhere in posts for Visa's 12.7 million Facebook fans and 161,000 followers.

Visa has also partnered with video producer and artist Origiful to document Sochi in Vines.

Coincidentally, according to We Are Social, from February 2 to 6, Visa dominated conversation around brand mentions and Winter Olympics on Twitter, blogs, and forums, with more than 5,000 mentions.

Per We Are Social, McDonald's is behind Visa with 3,700 mentions and Coca-Cola is in third place with 2,600 mentions. We Are Social says Procter & Gamble and Atos follow with just 1 percent of conversation apiece.



Lisa Lacy

In addition to ClickZ and Search Engine Watch, Lisa's work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest,,, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.

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