B-to-B Player USG Looks to Rebrand With Olympic Sponsorships

Citing 'Synergy With Core Values' of IOC, Building-Products Marketer Aims to Make Bigger Name for Itself After Rebounding From Recession

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To signal that the dark days of the housing bust are behind it, building-products company USG Corp. is launching a rebranding campaign -- only the third in its 111-year history -- with a Team USA sponsorship at the center. The message: It's important to build something meaningful, whether it's a house or an Olympic dream.

'It's Your World. Build It' campaign
'It's Your World. Build It' campaign
Ads with the tagline "It's Your World. Build It" will start rolling out this month in print, online, out-of-home and and social media. USG would not disclose its budget. "The tagline is all about possibilities," said Linda McGovern, VP-marketing at USG, who led the campaign development along with the company's agency of record, Gyro, Chicago. "The housing industry has not been kind to our organization -- it has been a very difficult market the last five to six years."

USG, along with other companies in the industry, was severely affected by the recession. Over the last five years it laid off about 4,800 employees, nearly half its global workforce. "For us to survive in a global market, we have to think differently," Ms. McGovern said. "As we come out of the recovery, we are a new company. We are a more agile, efficient organization."

As part of its rebranding, USG inked a four-year deal to be the official building-materials sponsor of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams. "We have faced some really tough times and a lot of adversity," Ms. McGovern said. "We fell pretty hard during the recession, and athletes have had a similar journey. There is a lot of synergy between the core values of who we are and what the USOC stands for."

Jon Mason, associate director-communications at the U.S. Olympic Committee, said USG's sponsorship "is a little bit of a departure."

Linda McGovern, VP-marketing, USG
Linda McGovern, VP-marketing, USG

"Typically, we have had large b-to-b sponsors such as Dow, GE and Deloitte, which are major global brands with a significant impact," said Mr. Mason. "USG may have that kind of impact in specialized markets, but they are probably not as well-known."

The human need to build
As part of its sponsorship, USG will provide materials to help build the Citi-sponsored USA House in Sochi, Russia, which will house the U.S. team during the Winter Olympics next month. USG is also providing materials to help build the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

Doug Kamp, exec creative director at Gyro, said a major goal is to raise brand awareness of USG, which makes drywall and other products for the construction industry. "Many of the campaigns we'd done for new innovations and products have gotten [USG] a lot of attention, but there wasn't a cohesive message around the company. A lot of people didn't know who USG was or what it stood for," Mr. Kamp said.

After doing extensive research, Gyro created a brand platform based on the emotional need of people to build something important. "The building industry is coming around. We want to take this thing that USG does with building and tie it into the greater human need to build."

In the ads, images morph from building scenes to life-achievement scenes. One ad has an image of an installer carrying a sheet of drywall, which becomes a ski slope over which a Team USA snowboarder is jumping. The campaign also includes online video and social media, featuring stories of Olympic and Paralympic athletes and the challenges they've had to overcome in their journey.

USG isn't planning TV ads during the broadcast, although it is considering local TV spots in key markets.

How to Rally Employees Around a Campaign

USG Corp.'s rebranding campaign kicked off with an internal push to engage employees and turn them into brand ambassadors.

'It's Your World. Build It' campaign
'It's Your World. Build It' campaign

It was unveiled to employees at an event at the USOC headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo., before the public announcement Oct. 1.

"We had a lot of debate internally about the timing of the launch. We laid off almost half of our salaried workforce, so it has not been a very motivating environment to work in," said Linda McGovern, VP-marketing at USG. "The goal was to get people engaged but also not spend a lot of money. We wanted to communicate that this is not just new logo but a whole new business strategy. It is very important for our employees to understand that, so they could get engaged and inspired."

USG selected 40 employee ambassadors from sales reps to plant managers and invited them to Colorado Springs, where they were given extensive training on how to communicate the new brand.

"These people were identified by senior managers as leaders at every level," Ms. McGovern said. "No matter what level you are, you have the ability to influence." The event included Olympic-themed activities, such as a torch-lighting ceremony and competitions among employees. The external relaunch announcement was made with seven live events around the world. -- Kate Maddox

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