Monster hired Cone in Feb. 2001. The agency created a multi-faceted marketing communications campaign that included a comprehensive media audit, deskside briefings, rolodex card mailers and press kits, an online press room, “people stories” research and ongoing media relations. The centerpiece of the program was a panel discussion held at the ESPNZone in NYC in October entitled Olympic Success: Beyond the Games.
The panel discussion, which tackled the question of “What’s Next?” for Olympic athletes after they retire from competition, featured a star-studded panel of Olympic athletes & hopefuls discussing the results of the most comprehensive survey of Olympic athletes and their careers. The panel was the pinnacle of the overall sponsorship, since the athletes were gathered to discuss the results of an agency-recommended, first-ever Olympian research study regarding the impact competition has on careers after competition. The agency and athlete panelists analyzed the research findings. Each of the athletes then shared individual anecdotes with attending media. Each of the stories added color and poignancy to the adversities, challenges, and other career issues that had never before been disclosed to the public.
OPPORTUNITIES, CHALLENGES & OBJECTIVES
As the official online career management sponsor of the 2002 and 2004 U.S. Olympic Teams and the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, Monster created 2 Web sites: Team 2002, the first online volunteer community at the Games; SLOC Outplacement, the first Web site to help SLOC paid staff find jobs after the Games; and TeamUSAnet, the first exclusive online community for Olympians and Olympic hopefuls to help them shift from athletic to professional careers. However, Cone faced a number of challenges in building the program and bringing it to life:
- Monster had never worked within the intricacies of the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) and Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) bureaucracy.
- Cone was brought aboard only 365 days before the start of the Winter Games. With many other sponsors having decades of association with the Olympics, Cone had one just one year to create media attention for the sponsorship.
- Most sponsors spend approximately 300% of the sponsorship fees in public relations programming; Monster was only able to contribute less than 5% of the sponsorship fees.
- The primary contribution to the Olympic Movement was online career assistance for Olympians, thus it had no relevance for consumers.
- The media had lost its appetite for Web-enabling technology stories, and the career assistance took place exclusively via Web site.
- The media requires success stories, and there would be none until after the Games when athletes began looking for jobs.
- After the first 180 days, all PR budgets had to be significantly reduced due to a slowing economy; however, the PR goals and program expectations remained the same.
Moreover, our pinnacle event was scheduled to be held on Sept. 12 in NYC’s Times Square. The events of September 11 forced the panel discussion back one month, but was still to be held in NYC—in the days & weeks following the attacks it was difficult to gauge how media would react to our issue and whether our panel event in NYC would be well received. Post-Sept. 11 concerns about Games-time security filled an Olympic news hole crunched for space.
Amidst these challenges, Cone was charged with the following three objectives:
- Create national media exposure for the Monster sponsorship that began prior to the Olympics, amidst all of the challenges.
- Maximize media interest in Monster’s Olympic-related product launches and initiatives
- Tie into Olympic movement in terms of what consumers hope sponsors will do to “give back” to Games
To help guide our programming recommendations, we conducted an extensive 2,000-article media audit. We reviewed/analyzed coverage of the past three Olympic Games—Sydney, Atlanta, and Nagano.
To add statistical “meat” to its program, Cone partnered with Harris Interactive to design, develop and conduct the most comprehensive survey of over 400 U.S. Olympians and hopefuls on the issue of career management.
\Cone created a “What’s Your Story” button on the volunteer Web site to elicit compelling anecdotes from volunteers. This led to nearly 900 responses, and enabled us to interview more than 30 volunteers from various markets across the country. Cone also interviewed over 50 Olympians who responded to the Harris survey and agreed to serve as spokespeople for our program. These stories served as “proof points” for Monster’s services, provided us with the anecdotes needed for media coverage, and gave us a local hook to use in many of our top markets.
The overarching strategy for the PR plan was to create national media exposure for the Monster sponsorship of the Olympics. This was accomplished through aggressive proactive/opportunistic media relations efforts, a large-scale press event & other promotions running before, during and for several months after the conclusion of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
At the onset of our program, Cone worked with Monster to create Olympic press materials, including an Olympic press kit and a Rolodex mailing which was mailed to 500 Olympic beat reporters and other media targets. Cone also created an online press room for Monster.
Because the media audit showed that the bulk of Olympic coverage originated from the host city, Cone scheduled an early round of deskside meetings in Salt Lake City. This formed the foundation of an extensive block and tackle media relations campaign that Cone has conducted over the past year to print, broadcast and radio outlets in the top 50 markets.
As the centerpiece of our program, on Oct. 16, 2001, Monster held a panel discussion in NYC called Olympic Success: Beyond the Games. Panelists included speed skating legend Eric Heiden, “Miracle on Ice” goalie Jim Craig, three-time judo Olympian Jimmy Pedro, current super-G world champion Daron Rahlves, freestyle skiing hopeful Hannah Hardaway and USOC sports psychologist Sean McCann. Monster CEO, Jeff Taylor, revealed the results of Monster’s Olympian career survey, and facilitated a discussion about the issues Olympians face after the Games. Cone facilitated a Q&A session, conducted on-site interviews between the athletes and reporters, and scheduled phone interviews with reporters who couldn’t attend.
Cone was incredibly successful with its first media push for deskside meetings in SLC. We met with 9 reporters at the three primary media outlets in Salt Lake City – Salt Lake Tribune, Deseret News and Associated Press. All 3 outlets covered the sponsorship shortly after the deskside meetings, and repeatedly over the last year as new initiatives were announced.
Despite the media climate surrounding the panel event, attendance at and coverage of the event exceeded both Cone’s and Monster’s expectations. Print coverage included The New York Times, USA Today, New York Daily News, New York Post, Rocky Mountain News and the Salt Lake Tribune. And the morning of the event, Jeff Taylor and Eric Heiden were interviewed on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
Cone has continued to garner coverage for Monster’s Olympic sponsorship leading up to the Games in Feb., with over 60 placements totaling 28 million media impressions. Cone expects additional media interest with announcements of Monster’s Olympic-related Super Bowl advertising spot, Monster’s on-site activities at the Games, and enhancements to TeamUSAnet as the Games conclude and the “What’s Next” question becomes paramount for Olympian.