Promoting NBC Olympics.com
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Promoting NBC Olympics.com

With the launch of the site in August of 1999, OutCast had one year to publicize the site’s coverage of the world’s biggest sporting event to the American public and become the online destination for fans seeking updates and information on the 2000 Olympi

Paul Holmes

 

Quokka Sports, a digital sports media company, was handpicked by NBC to co-produce the network’s online Olympic coverage for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.  Together Quokka and NBCOlmpics.com vowed they would create a content-rich site filled with real-time results that would transform the way people experienced the Olympics via the Web.  The goal was to out-traffic the likes of some of the most popular, traditional sports Web sites like Sportsline, ESPN, and Yahoo! Sports.   Additionally, OutCast and Quokka/NBCOlympics.com faced the head-on challenge of competing against the publicity machine of IBM and its official URL of the Olympic Games (www.olympics.com).  Both Quokka Sports and NBC’s reputations were on the line as NBCOlympics.com was the first joint production between the two companies.  For NBC, a failure of its online coverage of the Games could have damaged its reputation for delivering the most “Complete Olympic Experience” to viewers and advertisers.   For Quokka Sports, the future success of the company rode high on how well NBCOlympics.com was received by the general consumer, the press and the site sponsors.  The goal was clear - to make Quokka/NBCOlympics.com the most recognized Olympic Web site in the U.S.  To do this, OutCast Communications created a multi-faceted public relations/communications plan, which included hyping the Internet as an entertaining and mainstream medium for experiencing a sporting event like the Olympics.  Additionally, OutCast combined technology with the star power of competing athletes like Olympic Gold Medal winner, Michael Johnson, to create newsworthy headlines.  Through extensive consumer media outreach and brand awareness programs, OutCast created a PR campaign that generated gold medal media results.

With the launch of the site in August of 1999, OutCast had one year to publicize the site’s coverage of the world’s biggest sporting event to the American public and become the online destination for fans seeking updates and information on the 2000 Olympics.  In the end, OutCast delivered a PR campaign that helped NBCOlympics.com reach its goal to become the number one Olympic Web site in the U.S. and secured more than 500 million media impressions and 1,500 stories for NBCOlympics.com.

CHALLENGES:

With IBM holding the official URL for the Games, at www.olympics.com, Outcast faced an enormous branding hurdle and publicity battle of Olympic Web sites.  Additional communication bullets to dodge included: the IOC’s (International Olympic Committee) banned use of video on the Internet made Olympic web coverage questionable; ongoing skepticism from the media on whether NBC and Quokka could create a compelling online Olympic experience where people would actually turn log onto the site for more than just stats and scores; gaining the attention of consumer media was challenging as they were inundated with information surrounding the upcoming Olympics; and making sure that NBCOlympics.com was getting in front of the “right” consumer media since there were so many different reporters with different angle.  Finally, communicating and demonstrating that NBCOlympics.com complemented, instead of competed, with NBC’s broadcast coverage of the Games, was another obstacle that OutCast faced.  During the Games, a fourteen hour time difference between Sydney and San Francisco, where NBCOlympics.com/OutCast headquarters is based, also proved challenging for execution of the PR campaign.  This was especially difficult in reporting real-time highlights that usually happened asynchronously with newsstand deadlines.

OBJECTIVES:  

Launch and promote new Web site - www.nbcolympics.com

Build brand recognition and awareness around NBCOlympics.com with Olympic fans

Make the Web site the #1 Olympics online destination in the U.S., both during the Games and on the road to Sydney

Position NBC and Quokka Sports as the leaders in digital sports entertainment

RESEARCH/PLANNING:

Research was conducted to decipher how the media historically reported on Internet coverage of the Olympics and other major sporting events like, the Super Bowl. Early-on, OutCast conducted multiple media audits to identify key reporters for outreach. The audits showed that there were more than six different types of reporters interested in the NBCOlympics.com story: media writers, the sports and Olympic press, sports business media, financial/business press, technology press and lifestyle & marketing reporters. For the consumer media, OutCast identified an NQV spokesperson, as well as Olympic athlete spokespeople who could speak on behalf of the site.  In addition, OutCast tailored storylines and messages to appeal to the consumer media.   OutCast orchestrated a yearlong PR campaign broken down into five phases:  1) Hype and Buzz Building; 2) Heightened Athlete/Olympic Interest; 3) Pre-Olympic Frenzy; 4) Olympic Frenzy; and 5) Olympic Wrap-Up.  

STRATEGIES:

Build loyal following among core affinity audiences and develop vertical media interest in early months.

Make NBCOlympics.com a household name by promoting the site’s exclusive U.S. Internet rights to the Olympics and promote the site’s real-time coverage (24/7); position NBCOlympics.com as the solution to the 14-17 time difference/broadcast tape delay.

Wow the consumer media with the in-depth, rich content and out-of-the ordinary/real-time features of the site.

Leverage promotions, contests, and events like the U.S. Track & Field and U.S. Olympic Swim Trials for bringing mainstream media attention to the site; leverage star power of and interest in Olympic athletes and NBC talent.

Create human-interest events like the Amy Van Dyken “Ready, Set, Design” Swim-suit contest, the Michael Johnson “Wired Athlete” story and exclusive “Athlete’s Voice” email diaries to entice lifestyle and feature reporters to report on these features.

Be mentioned in the “right” consumer media outlets and majority of “where to get more Olympic information” round-ups; focus on implementing a few large events, contests and activities “right” rather than focus on many, smaller activities.

CAMPAIGN/EXECUTION:

The wave of NBCOlympics media outreach rolled out with an introductory press conference at NBC’s Saturday Night Live studios in New York City. More than 30 media attended, over one-third of them consisting of consumer media.  Media momentum built throughout the year with timely national and local news announcements, staged events, athlete press tours, ongoing spokesperson site previews and speaking opportunities at sports/technology conferences. Quickly, NBCOlympics.com became the underdog favorite and “Must See” Olympic Web site in the U.S. Here’s a glance at the top tactics involved:  Athlete’s Voice Media Tour:  From February through June 2000, OutCast conducted media tours with NBCOlympic.com participating “Athlete’s Voice” athletes. The athlete tours took gold medal athletes like Michael Johnson (Track & Field), Amy Van Dyken  (Swimming), and Dominique Moceanu (Gymnastics) to New York City, Seattle and LA, meeting with such publications as Self, People, Vogue, MSNBC and Women’s Sports & Fitness. The athletes along with the Web site producer highlighted their direct involvement with the site, promoted the other 50 Athlete’s Voice participants and talked about what fans could expect to find on NBCOlympics.com.  The “Wired Athlete” Story: To demonstrate the site’s immersive coverage of the Games, OutCast and NBCOlympics.com “wired” the world’s fastest man, Michael Johnson. The devices tracked Michael’s vital statistics and other data. OutCast used the content as a news hook to gain media attention with daily newspaper feature writers and news broadcast outlets to show fans how to technologically “get closer” to the Olympic experience by accessing this kind of data on the site. A Media Tour in New York was conducted to highlight Johnson’s involvement with NBCOlympics.com. Meetings were secured with ESPN Magazine, Sport Magazine, US Weekly, Newsweek, Time Magazine, MSNBC, The New York Times, NPR and the Discovery Channel.  OutCast coordinated a  “Wired Athlete” Press conference at the U.S. Track & Field Trials in Sacramento in July and gathered more than 50 top Olympic media for the event.  Media Education “Cheat Sheet” Campaign:  OutCast blanketed the consumer and sports media with a “How To” follow the Games on the Internet campaign.  It involved providing a Web site “Cheat Sheet” that walked media through the more than 50,000 pages and 60,000 images on the site. Additionally, colorful, NBCOlympics.com rolodex cards with contact information for NBC and OutCast were mailed to a database of more than 1,000 Olympic, business and technology reporters.  The Amy Van Dyken “Ready, Set, Design” Swimsuit Contest:  a promotion aimed at kids that challenged them to design a patch to be worn on Amy’s swimsuit during the US Olympic Swim Trials.  Ongoing News Bureau:  Quokka Sports/NBCOlympics.com issued a press release a day throughout the 17 days of the Games (20 total), highlighting site features, unique coverage, athlete chats and partnerships; developed proactive and reactive media teams for the Games; and held daily communications calls with the Sydney NBCOlympics.com team each day of the Games.

RESULTS:

NBCOlympics.com captured half of the online U.S. audience and became the most visited Olympic Web site in the United States with nearly 6 million unique visitors; and received twice the traffic of the Nagano Olympics and Super Bowl 2000 Web sites; in September the average connected time per visitor to NBCOlympics.com exceeded 50 minutes.

NBCOlympics.com captured gold medals from Nielsen//NetRatings and Media Metrix as the most trafficked site and was rated the number-one “Gold Medal Olympic Web site” by competitors Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine.

From July – December 2000, OutCast secured over 750 consumer print clips.  In total, OutCast secured more than 500 million media impressions and 1,500 stories for NBCOlympics.com (does not include viewership).

In less than eight weeks, OutCast secured nearly 600 print clips (8/1/200 to 10/6/2000), for a total print ad equivalency of $2.2 million.  Just in the month of September, 2000, NBCOlympics.com garnered 26 stories in USA Today, 15 articles in The Wall Street Journal and 21 placements in The Los Angeles Times.

Stories about Quokka and NBCOlympics.com appeared on top broadcast outlets, such as CNBC, CNET, CNN, Fox National News and MSNBC as well as print media such as; Associated Press, Dallas Morning News, People Magazine, Reuters, TV Guide, San Francisco Chronicle, Sports Illustrated, Time Magazine, Triathlete Magazine, US Weekly, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, Women’s Sports & Fitness, Yahoo! Internet Life.

NBCOlympics.com met internal revenue goals for the Games by serving more than 1 billion impressions for Olympic advertisers.

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