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Olympics Over, But Avaya Hopes Its Payoff Just Beginning

Company Banking On Olympics As The Ultimate Reference Story

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Avaya's Roberto Ricossa
Avaya's Roberto Ricossa

As the Sochi Olympics got underway earlier this month, much of the talk focused on Sochi's barely functional hotels and oddly arranged bathrooms. The images of the dilapidation spread through social media, and quickly gave the impression that the city's infrastructure was a mess. But, the photos were posted via working wifi and cell networks -- meaning Sochi, ragged as it may have looked, was at least connected.

Avaya, the business communications company behind these networks, set them up in exchange for "in kind" benefits from the International Olympics Committee. But the company claims it's getting a healthy return on its investment via the work its Russia presence is generating and, perhaps more importantly, the marketing value that comes along with being an "official supplier" of the games.

"The Olympics is probably the most visible customer that we have," said Roberto Ricossa, VP Americas marketing and inside sales at Avaya. "This has, without a doubt, served as a flagship of customer reference that has opened the doors for many many other customers worldwide."

All told, Avaya set up a network that powered over 120,000 devices for more than 40,000 people in Sochi. The network, built over three years, included 6,500 IP phones and 2,500 wifi access points, spanning both voice and internet. The company put 40 employees on the ground to ensure everything ran smoothly during the Olympics. And it did -- there were no connectivity horror stories to be found.

Ultimate Use Case

The story of Avaya's Olympics participation, Mr. Ricossa said, makes its business both relatable and sturdy sounding to clients. It's a narrative that can be used for years to help get Avaya's message across; a strong reference story that can be used to sell a wide variety of prospects.

"You cannot tell the Olympic guy, 'Hey, can you hold that and redo that again, because, you know, the timer didn't work," Mr. Ricossa said. "The reliability our network needs to have for that skiier to get the gold medal is as important as the financial transaction that a bank needs to have when doing any commerce between one or another entity."

Variations of this story, Mr. Ricossa said, have been formalized into Avaya sales training and marketing collateral. Marketing team members and sales reps, he said, use it to get a simple point across: "If we're doing this for the Olympics, imagine what we can do for your company."

And they have practice, the company was also the official supplier of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Relaying Avaya's Marketing Message

One of the "in kind" benefits Avaya received as an "official supplier" was its own Olympic torch. And the company ran with it, literally. Mr. Ricossa said the company took the torch on a four continent relay of its own -- spanning Asia, Europe, North America and South America -- and invited prospects, clients and partners to hold it.

Avaya not only stirred good feelings via this experience -- giving its prospects an experience worth bragging about on social media -- it used it to subtly stir interest in the work it did in Sochi.

"The fact that we have the Olympic torch automatically opens up the question of 'why does Avaya' have the Olympic torch. Right there, from a marketing perspective, is a great opportunity to say, 'Well let me tell you why we were selected to build the infrastructure for the Olympics."

Avaya also says it's landed over 30 projects in Russia outside its Olympics work, which puts it in the green overall. "We absolutely believe it will be profitable," said an Avaya spokesman in reference to the company's overall Sochi effort. Mr. Ricossa said the company's Russia win rate is now at 80%.

"The ways of marketing tend to be very diverse from one area to another, from one continent to another, from one country to another," said Mr. Ricossa. "So when you have something like the Olympics that is worldwide in nature... definitely jump on that."

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