Olympic diary: The Meet & Greets

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David Schwab, director-media and marketing for Octagon, Interpublic Group of Cos.' sports-marketing arm, is keeping a diary for Advertising Age with a behind-the-scenes look at the marketing and sponsorship of some of the top athletes at the Athens Olympics. Below are his observations from last week.

For companies like ours, the Olympics are always an incredible opportunity to have all your athletes and all the sponsors in the same place at the same time, whether that's to talk about or extend current deals or to reach out to new marketers for new opportunities.

Sean Foley, of Octagon, has already been with John Hancock with one of our clients, Olympic gold medalist Rulon Gardner. In addition to talking about Rulon, we've also been discussing business opportunities for other Octagon clients. We'll be doing meet-and-greets and hospitality for the clients over here throughout the two weeks, with future appearances by softball star Jennie Finch and swimmers Lenny Krayzelburg and Ian Crocker.

John Touchette, John Hancock's VP-marketing, said "Lenny is a great story and works really well with our guests." The meet-and-greets are important. They keep the athlete and the client connected, and it gives that marketer yet another way of entertaining its guests over here.

Our Octagon team has fielded hundreds of calls-no exaggeration-asking about appearances, media opportunities and corporate partnerships. Octagon House, the nickname we've given the place we have here in Athens for our Octagon team, has a calendar on the wall in the living room. It's hand-written in magic marker, 48 inches by 60 inches, with all appearances, schedules and media opportunities for our athletes.

We've already sat down with 24 Hour Fitness (a U.S. Olympic Committee sponsor) because of the national deals they have with Rulon Gardner and Jennie Finch. And on Sunday, Morgan Boys and Marissa Gagnon from Octagon spent the evening with Natalie Ferguson and Vanessa Wagner of PowerBar, which works with swimmer Michael Phelps, Krayzelburg and several of our other athletes.

On Aug. 15 I spent the day at "Speedo Beach," a part of Athens in which Speedo has literally bought an area of the beach and has taken it over. It did hospitality and media for all the families of athletes over here, including the families of Octagon clients Phelps and Krayzelburg. We also met with Speedo and their parent company Warnaco, to discuss post-Olympic marketing strategies regarding Phelps. [As of Aug. 20, Mr. Phelps had already won seven medals, including four golds.]

Our Octagon team sat with USA Swimming for half the day to brainstorm and discuss Phelps and everyone else, with the idea of bringing Phelps around the world later this year and leading up to Beijing in 2008.

Rod Davis, the VP-marketing for USA Swimming, said "We have a true opportunity to work together with Phelps and other swimmers to grow the sport to levels never seen before."

And even though we're barely a week in Athens, there's no time like the present to look ahead to the future: our consulting division is here and has already been spending time with executives from Beijing (Summer Olympics 2008) and Vancouver (Summer Olympics 2010).

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