Financial-services companies are gearing up to be big players in the 2012 London Summer Olympics. But with companies such as Citigroup, TD Ameritrade and Visa competing for consumers' attention, who will stand out?
Citi, the retail-banking sponsor and a first-time U.S. Olympic Committee sponsor, is clearly putting heft behind its "Every Step of the Way" campaign. Breaking May 14, the effort is billed as the largest and most cohesive U.S. sponsorship in the company's history.
Citi declined to elaborate on outlays, but executives with knowledge of the deal said the company will spend almost $10 million over the course of the three-month campaign. That's in addition to the $10 million to $15 million it shelled out to become a USOC sponsor for a four-year cycle.
"There's no question we have to differentiate," said Dermot Boden, Citi's chief brand officer.
Credit-card sponsor Visa broke its Olympic activation, centered on social media, last week. TD Ameritrade signed a deal with the USOC in the online-broker category last year, and its campaign for the Special Olympics also breaks May 14. An effort from professional-services sponsor Deloitte is coming soon, though details are still under wraps.
"We had to approach this in a multifaceted way," said Mr. Boden. "They're calling this the first true digital Olympics, right? So the digital component is our centerpiece, and the theme is Citi has a long history of helping people from ambition to achievement. That's what the Olympics are about for American athletes."
"Every Step of the Way" will be executed in TV ads and in print, as well as in Citi branches and on ATM screens. There will be online and digital advertising, event marketing and a "wrap" of the MetLife Building in New York, and similar building-branding in other cities. The campaign launch includes more than 100 print and online elements.
As part of the program, consumers will help allocate, via social media, Citi's $500,000 donation to community sports programs that inspired and were integral to the success of the 13 U.S. Olympic athletes that compose "Team Citi." Nine TV spots will air in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Chicago and Washington throughout the games.
"We wanted to design a program that allowed us to be genuine in how we worked with the USOC," Mr. Boden said. "We don't have some of the heritage with the Olympics that other brands have, so we wanted to engage with the public and do it in a way that was genuine."
Publicis Groupe handled the creative for the Citi campaign, which includes work from Glideslope, Edelman, PubMo, Razorfish, MEC and Ruder Finn.
Visa's campaign encourages fans to support their favorite athletes by posting comments and videos on the company's Facebook page and YouTube channel.
"This is social to the core," said Visa spokeswoman Nancy Panter. "It's extremely important to us."
There will be a TV spot, out of Omnicom's TBWA/Chiat/Day, Los Angeles, with a voice-over from actor Morgan Freeman asking viewers to use Visa's social-media options to cheer on the Olympic athletes. Visa plans to incorporate some of the best photos, videos and shout-outs into TV commercials to be shown during the 17 days of the games.
Asked how Visa intended to differentiate itself from the other financial-services advertisers, Ms. Panter pointed out that Visa has been an Olympic sponsor for 25 years and is currently a worldwide International Olympic Sponsor, while the others are U.S. sponsors.
"We're in 70 different countries around the world," Ms. Panter said. "That's quite huge."
All the activity is making the Olympics U.S. rights-holder, NBC Universal, extraordinarily happy.
When Bank of America ended its financial-services sponsorship after the 2008 Summer Olympics, NBC moved to segment the category so that it could have multiple sponsors. The network has sold more than $900 million in advertising—an estimated $100 million more than the total for the 2008 games in Beijing.