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2014 Olympics: Winning Marketing for Team USA’s Athletes

2014 April 21

BS USBF logo The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi Russia have come and gone.  Tuvel Communications was pleased to lend its support to the USA Bobsled & Skeleton team’s marketing efforts. Olympic athletes rely on many forms of sponsorships to fund their dreams, from individual and corporate donations to sponsorships to crowd funding. Prior to the Winter Games, Tuvel worked with the USA Bobsled & Skeleton and Washington, DC-based ad agency ds+f to bolster the team’s online community building efforts, resulting in record sponsorship revenue.

Many lessons were learned on our Olympic marketing journey. Please keep in mind that individual athletic performance has a huge impact on any type of marketing effort, including everything social. The following list includes some of the lessons learned – and reminders that we picked up along the way.

Content <still> rules

As you can see from the following examples, content rules! Reach, engagement and followers are only some of the metrics used to track success. Bobsled athlete Jazmine Fenlator and skeleton athlete John Daly’s Twitter reach was high when compared to the other athletes on the team. (Twitter ‘Star’ Lolo Jones was not included in our study due to her massive – nearly 400,000 – number of followers.)

Example: Jazmine Fenlator and John Daly’s Twitter reach:

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 5.25.45 PM




Jazmine’s updates during the Olympics include mentions of Hurricane Irene relief efforts and her mom’s health issues. She is also known for her crowdsourcing or Internet fundraising efforts to raise money for training, transportation, and Sochi-related equipment expenses.




BS Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 8.15.45 AM John Daly
John’s updates include lots of humor and pics from the teammate Johnny Quinn’s famous Sochi bathroom door incident. Mr. Daly also gained notoriety when Cosmo asked readers if they thought he was the Ryan Lochte of the Sochi Olympics.


It’s good to be engaged and… engaging. Engagement, as a metric, is important to potential sponsors because it helps create positive ROI.  Athletes are overall more engaged and engaging when they include an authentic voice, sharing more than just sports-related content.

Example: Steve Holcomb’s engagement:

BS FB Fans


Steve Holcomb scored high in number of Facebook fans and engagement (12% or double the industry average.) The fact that he won two bronze medals in Sochi didn’t hurt either!



Steve openly discussed personal information, including his battle with depression and his struggle to regain his eyesight. Jimmy Fallon’s playful jab at Steve on the Tonight Show premiere didn’t hurt his exposure either!



Face-to-face <still> matters

BS 6 The Internet helps to fortify relationships, but face-to-face will always matter! We attended a fundraiser for USA Bobsled & Skeleton in Washington, DC late last year with a focus on the Sochi games being less than a few weeks away.  This event provided an excellent opportunity to meet Olympic athletes up close and learn about their paths to success. Poise, humility and charm are understated terms when describing this exceptional group of world-class amateur athletes. If a campaign is executed properly, all parts of the marketing mix work in tandem. Messaging is consistent, various channels are offered for feedback and interaction is seamless. Nothing replaces eye contact or that first impression, just as nothing replaces the feeling of holding a real Olympic gold metal in your hands!

Our research division worked hard to identify hundreds of Internet gatekeepers through marketing channels such as forums and communities, newsletters, blogs and other social networks. Passion for the sports of bobsled and skeleton run high in the US and abroad. The team’s athletes are exactly who you want to build your next brand around – because they carry a genuine voice. These are also the folks that breathe life into marketing efforts, reminding us that quality overshadows quantity when building relationships.

Everyone loves a winner!  

Bobsled Team Having a unique story and voice certainly helps sell the brand but athletic performance creates heroes. Coming home with six metals in five disciplines was a real boost for the team’s athletes and both sports. Lucky team sponsors reap big benefits and many athletes have been fortunate enough to parlay their Sochi efforts into future income and promotional opportunities. Solid performance boosted program metrics and made sponsors happy!

It takes a village

A solid foundation is key to athletic success. The track, bobsled, conditions, coaches and teamwork are some of the ingredients necessary for athletic success. Conversely, a solid marketing infrastructure is also mission-critical for campaign success. Traditional and digital integration, teamwork, value, consistency and a solid game plan are some of the marketing ingredients necessary for success. When all of the marketing pieces fall together, we have the groundwork necessary for success. Now it’s your turn. Please feel free to share your insights in the comment section below. What Olympic marketing lessons can you add to this list?

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  • Knowalclamocti

    Johnny Quinn had the highest increase out of any Team USA athlete with a 900%+ increase in his social media following.

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