NBCU Preps Massive Promo Push for Sochi Olympic Games

With the Winter Olympics less than four weeks away, NBC Sports Group is about to trumpet its highest level of promotional backing for the Games in Sochi, Russia.

NBC Sports Group chief marketing officer John Miller said the company will provide Gold Symphony Level support — marshaling its own myriad assets and those of parent company Comcast — from Jan. 13 through the Feb. 6 start of the 2014 Olympics.

Over the next four weeks, that means a flurry of new promos, as well as custom creative and editorial segments focusing on the Games. As a result of its acquisition by Comcast in January 2011, NBCUniversal has 40% more ad capacity than it had for the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, including 20 broadcast and cable channels and more than 65 websites that are combining to promote the upcoming Winter Games.

The effort will cap a long-term, eight-tier push for what Miller said has yielded “billions of impressions.”


Miller said 35 different spots are on tap, featuring various athletes and centering around themes of global unity and rooting for the home team. “You may support the [NFL’s] Denver Broncos or New England Patriots, but everybody roots for Team USA,” he said.

The spots focus on such athletes as snowboarder Shaun White, skiers Julia Mancuso and Bode Miller, ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White, and speed skater Shani Davis.

Lindsey Vonn, the women’s downhill gold medalist in Vancouver, will also be featured in a couple of promos that reflect her past performances. However, the Jan. 7 announcement of her withdrawal from Sochi due to a knee injury put a lot of editors to work last week. Miller said about 20 pieces of creative had to be revised, and a pair focusing solely on Vonn were scrapped.

“No doubt, Lindsey Vonn is a star,” Miller acknowledged, “but no one athlete is bigger than the Olympics. There are a lot of other stories to tell.”

While NBC and NBC Sports Network have run as many promos around the Sochi games as were dedicated to the London Games, NBCU has invested much more in the out-of-home category this time around, with a 50% increase in this arena overall. “Wherever there are screens — doctors’ offices, gas stations, taxis, Walmart, fast-food restaurants and movie theaters — we’re there,” Miller said.

Miller said the company has also upped the promotional ante considerably on the digital/social fronts.

“Once the Games begin, we know the discussion is going to explode,” he said. “Our goal has been to get the chatter buzzing beforehand. We’ve been priming the pump toward Feb. 6.”

That’s the night the XXII Winter Olympiad begins, with competition in three sports: men’s and women’s snowboard slopestyle, which is in the Games for the first time; women’s freestyle moguls; and the Olympic debut of team figure skating. The following night, Friday, Feb. 7, NBC will provide its traditional coverage of the Opening Ceremony.

“It’s going to be a great night of competition, a great night of TV,” Miller said. “We couldn’t ask for a promotional opportunity better than the Opening Ceremony, than three hours of Olympic programming.”


As in London, NBC Sports — which for the first time will live-stream all 15 sports and 98 competitions from the Winter Games for more than 1,000 hours of programming in all — will not make the entire Opening Ceremony available to authenticated viewers on computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets.

NBC Sports chairman Mark Lazarus said at an Olympic press event in New York on Jan. 7 that providing a live feed of the expansive event wouldn’t include the necessary cultural references, hallmarks of NBC’s primetime coverage, which will be helmed by Bob Costas, Matt Lauer, Meredith Viera and Dave Remnick from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. that night.

“We want to put context to it, with the full pageantry it deserves,” Lazarus said, noting that a decision had not yet been reached regarding whether NBC Sports will livestream the Closing Ceremony. However, the programmer is “leaning” in that direction, stating that the concluding event “is much more of a party than a theatrical performance.”


Beginning Feb. 8, authenticated viewers will be able to access Gold Zone, a whip-around service tracking up-to-theminute action from the 2014 Winter Games. Gold Zone, which will be housed at NBCOlympics.com and available via the NBC Sports Live Extra app, is redolent of the adhoc highlights services proffered by DirecTV and NFL Network spotlighting pro-football action on Sundays.

Gold Zone co-hosts Andrew Siciliano and Ryan Burr will provide context to what’s being streamed and will keep fans current as the video player switches from event to event. In addition to live look-ins, Gold Zone will also offer highlights, interviews, athlete profiles and more.

Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics, said NBC deployed a similar service, sans hosts, during the 2012 Summer Games. However, London viewers were only alerted to what was coming next on the service by NBC staffers’ tweets.

Overall, the authentication verification process should become easier for video customers of Comcast’s Xfinity, Cablevision’s Optimum TV, Cox Communications, Verizon Communications’s FiOS TV and Midcontinent Communications, as these distributors will employ auto-IP detection in the home to facilitate delivery of the streamed Olympic content to their subscribers. Comcast and Cablevision offered IP-identification during the London Games.


NBC Sports Group will leverage both NBCUniversal and Comcast assets to give the Sochi Winter Games its highest level of promotional backing since the programmer began televising the Olympic Games.