MKTG Insights: Team Canada Announcement - Which Brands Made The Team?
Earlier this week, virtually the entire country came to a standstill to watch as 25 NHL players were named to Team Canada's Men's Hockey Team. However, it was more than just Canadian hockey fans and the players themselves who were impacted by Tuesday morning's announcement. Corporate sponsors were also on the edge of their seat, hoping that the players within their sponsorship roster would be on a flight to Sochifor a chance to win Olympic gold.
Whenever brands evaluate potential athlete sponsorships, they factor in the life cycle and projected future performance of that athlete - from age to injury to market, there is no shortage of variables for sponsors to consider. Projecting an athlete's Olympic chances is also typically part of the evaluation criteria, particularly if you are investing in a Hockey Player. This presents a unique challenge as the stock of an athlete can change significantly in four years - specifically amongst hockey players in Canada where the talent pool is so deep.
In anticipation of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, a number of corporate sponsors linked themselves to hockey, including agreements with NHL athletes who were under consideration for Team Canada.
What Can Be Gained?
Brands - Brands who are fortunate enough to support a player selected to Team Canada can gain a cost-effective association to the Olympic Games (albeit indirect, unless of course they are an Olympic Sponsor) and share in the equity of the sporting event that inspires the highest levels of fan avidity in Canada today: Olympic hockey.
Athletes - For the athletes themselves, there is much to be gained. While many of these stars carry weight as endorsers in their roles with their respective NHL clubs, the Olympics can be a platform for hockey players to increase their reach and relevance, catapulting themselves from a regional to a national figure - much like Drew Doughty, Jonathan Toews, Shea Weber and others did as part of Canada's gold medal winning team at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Special Consideration for Non-Olympic Sponsors
Amplifying the value in Team Canada representation for corporate sponsors is the fact that the NHL will go dark for the 2-week Olympic break, just before the final stretch to the NHL Playoffs, and amidst a major PR push driven by the NHL's Stadium Series. With that, non-Olympic sponsors go dark as well. Being able to continue your brand's narrative during an emotionally charged spectator period is vital. Also, for brands without NHL team or league sponsorship deals, their individual player deals and ensuring visibility for the athlete are that much more important. Olympic team selection is a major opportunity to assist in raising the recognition of that player well beyond the event itself.
P&G, Hyundai Amongst Brands that Won the Day
Sure bets like Crosby and Toews were bound to pay off for their sponsors, particularly Canadian Tire (MKTG client), a company that has featured Toews and Crosby in major Olympic Campaigns for their Canadian Tire and Sport Chek banners (not to mention announcing Sport Chek's signing of Stamkos the day prior to the Team's unveil). However, beyond the sure things, brands that cashed in on their bets included Olympic Sponsor P&G (Gillette) with their sponsorship of John Tavares and Hyundai through their sponsorship of P.K. Subban. In the case of Tavares, when the New York Islanders forward was signed by Gillette in November, the press release touted him as an "Olympic hopeful", and planned to utilize him as the face of their domestic creative campaign during the Olympics. While Tavares was a favorite to make the team, comparatively he doesn't draw as much interest from sponsors nor carry the same "Face of Canada" status as a Crosby or Toews does. P&G's decision to make him front-and-centre may have been viewed as presumptuous. With Tavares set to be a major part of the team, it is another win for the CPG giant that has dominated Olympic marketing in recent years. They may have very well picked the next face of Team Canada. As an official IOC partner, P&G has all the ingredients to leverage this deal across all platforms.
For Subban, it was auto-maker Hyundai, whose sponsorship of the Montreal Canadiens defensemen paid off. Hyundai partner Subban has been involved with Hyundai's Hockey Helpers program for a few years and has been leveraged extensively to promote the program on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada throughout the lead-in to the Team Canada selection. Playing in a major Canadian market for the Habs, as well as past success on the World Juniors stage has turned P.K. into a national figure. However, his 2014 Sochi selection will likely raise his profile even further. Marked as a "bubble player", P.K.'s selection is a win for Hyundai. Even Subban's being on the bubble put him at the centre of discussions through any coverage leading into the decision. We can be sure that he'll garner significant attention during the Games itself.
The Potential for a Post-Olympic Halo
Ultimately, the Olympics can have a transformative impact on a player's career (as well as their brand). For sponsors with brand ambassadors suiting up for Team Canada, there is a tantalizing "what if?". What if that player is involved in the 2014 version of the "Golden Goal"? What if that player scores a crucial goal in a shootout? With the weight of a nation on their shoulders, players who rise to the occasion will undoubtedly receive a lift in brand awareness and brand opinion, passing that on to their corporate sponsors. The IOC and COC have strict rules when it comes to ambush and brands making a direct association with the Olympics. However, there is nothing to stop brands from celebrating the historical accomplishments of their athlete roster upon the completion of the games. For example, if Canada were to bring home the gold, Hyundai (a non-Olympic sponsor), would be able to celebrate P.K. Subban as an Olympic champion and beyond that, his recognition and personal brand value increases overnight- a valuable asset for the Sponsor's brand.
Breaking Down the Roster
MKTG conducted an analysis of the selected roster to determine which brands will have the greatest representation in Sochi by Team Canada, and which athletes are bringing the largest sponsor rosters to the Games. Nike Bauer leads way with the largest portfolio, while Sidney Crosby boasts the largest sponsor roster:
*The above data does not include any one-off or past promotions.