Highly successful sponsorship programs on events like the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix were a key to the USSA's nomination for Sports Team of the Year by Sports Business Journal. Here Kaitlyn Farrington drops into the halfpipe at the opening Grand Prix at Copper Mountain Resort, going on to make the Olympic Team and win the gold medal. (USSA-Sarah Brunson)
NEW YORK CITY (May 21) – Innovative sponsorship and marketing programs helped pave the way for a storybook Olympic season for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, with athletes winning 17 medals including a record eight gold in Sochi. Wednesday night the USSA will be honored as one of six finalists for the Sports Business Journal’s Sports Team of the Year award, against some of the greatest teams ever in professional sports. Also nominated are the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Blackhawks, Golden State Warriors, Portland Timbers and Seattle Seahawks.
The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association is being recognized by Sports Business Journal as one of six finalists as Team of the Year – one of the highest honors in sport sponsorship and marketing.
The award will be presented May 21 (8 p.m. EDT) at the Marriott Marquis in New York City during Sports Business Journal’s annual gala.
Also nominated are the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Blackhawks, Golden State Warriors, Portland Timbers and Seattle Seahawks.
USSA athletes won 17 Olympic medals in Sochi, including a record eight gold. The USSA was recognized by SBJ for its innovative marketing programs to draw awareness to its athletes and provide the revenue necessary to ensure its success.
Seeking to keep its sport relevant to youth, the USSA played an active role internationally to impact the IOC to accept new events like halfpipe and slopestyle skiing, as well as slopestyle snowboarding.
In the case of freeskiing, the USSA strategically integrated a long-term sponsorship with The North Face that allowed it to quickly form a national team in the new sport, providing unique athletic benefits and creating stronger market awareness.
During the Olympic season, the USSA introduced new multi-year partnerships with P&G, Blue Diamond, Goodyear, Bose, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Chobani, and Kellogg's.
With a focus on working with Olympic partners, the USSA had a record nine athletes featured in 12 national branding campaigns that ran not only during the Olympic primetime windows but also across general cable sports and even in the NFL Playoffs.
NBC, NBCSN and Universal Sports were all key players in the Olympic qualifying events coverage with 14 hours on NBC, 36 hours on NBCSN and over 100 hours on Universal Sports featuring groundbreaking live coverage from key events plus live streaming.
An increasing investment by the USSA in live coverage resulted in a 20% increase in broadcast ratings, along with 25% on cable.
The USSA worked closely with its broadcast partner NBC, taking over 50 athletes to the NBC West Hollywood promotional shoot and having an unprecedented 18 athletes profiled during NBC’s Olympic coverage.
The USSA’s partnership with the USOC and NBC for its Olympic Trials for Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined produced a hugely successful weekend event on the Olympic venue in Park City attracting thousands of fans on the weekend between Christmas and New Years.
Three custom-produced U.S. Ski Team 36, U.S. Snowboarding 36, and U.S. Freeskiing 36 episodes were developed by the USSA on NBC and NBCSN, chronicling Bode Miller’s successful bid to make a fifth Olympic team, as well as chronicle the heart-wrenching disappointment of Seth Wescott and Simon Dumont with cameras there when they failed to make the team.
To reach a younger demographic, the USSA partnered with The Whistle, developing youth-specific content that was wildly successful during the season.
The USSA dramatically expanded its licensing in the Olympic year including a program with USOC partner Outerstuff, Ltd., resulting in first-ever broad distribution of co-branded merchandise featuring USSA’s brands and the Olympic rings.
Noted college merchandising Tailgate brought the USSA’s brands into major big box retailers including Gap, Baby Gap and American Eagle.
A partnership with NFL and MLB merchandiser New Era brought an innovative look to a boutique line of USSA branded merchandise.
The USSA partnered with USA Today Sports to develop Sochi Studio, an exclusive production facility based in the team’s private hotel, to churn out rights-free feature after feature for deployment on USA Today and the Team’s own USSA Network YouTube channel.
To boost its messaging reach and achieve more strategic post-victory media placements, the Team retained New York PR agency Missy Farren and Associates (MFA) to manage stateside outreach, resulting in a dramatic increase in major media appearances beyond the NBC family.
The USSA’s own web channels saw a 355% increase in unique visitors during the Olympic period.
Pre-planning with partners netted the USSA’s slopestyle skiing sweep athletes a Kellogg’s Champions Box limited edition cover, as well as Wheaties covers for Sage Kotsenburg and Mikaela Shiffrin.
The USSA’s PR outreach netted multiple covers on Sports Illustrated, including three of four pre-Olympic covers as well as the post-Sochi cover featuring Mikaela Shiffrin.
USSA athletes were featured on the post-Olympic appearance circuit more than any others including multiple appearances on Letterman, Fallon, Conan, Ellen, GMA, Today Show and many more.
Tiger Shaw, President and CEO, U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association
It is an honor for our organization to be nominated as Team of the Year by Sports Business Journal. While we’re not a traditional sports team, our athletes captivate the attention of America like none other once every four years. Their success on the Olympic stage is dependent on the marketing revenue we generate to support them athletically.
Michael Jaquet, Chief Marketing Officer, U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association
As a non-profit sports organization, every penny we earn from marketing goes directly to support the dreams of Olympians. We’re more than just a team or national governing body. We are, essentially, our own League – creating our own events, leveraging our sport internationally, managing our own media rights and telling our story in concert with USSA partners with a sole focus on revenue to support athletes.
Our Olympic athletes are the kids next door. Each of the 17 medalists represents a story that is relevant to Americans coast-to-coast. Our telling that story provides value to our Partners. That value translates to athletic excellence. Marketing to us is more than brand value. It’s the difference between a young athlete having the opportunity to stand on an Olympic podium or not.