Roots Finds Olympic Gold in E-Marketing

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Since becoming an official partner of the U.S. Olympic teams in 2002, athletics apparel marketer Roots essentially had relied on the television exposure that the brand received during the Games to drive Web sales.

But leading up to this year's Winter Olympics, the company focused heavily online for the first time, including buying keywords at the major search engines, biweekly e-mail campaigns from Thanksgiving through February and posting content at social networking sites like The result was a 20 percent rise in sales versus the company's forecast based on past Olympics.

"At MySpace, we talked up the athletes while mentioning that the items they were wearing are available at our Web site," said James Connell, manager of new media and e-commerce at Roots, Toronto. "Another thing we did to drive traffic leading up to February was post video clips of 'Saturday Night Live's' coverage of the 2002 Games through a partnership with NBC."

Even with the shift to more Web marketing, the TV exposure that the brand gets is key to maximizing its partnership with the U.S. Olympic Committee. During last month's Games, all U.S. athletes wore Roots-branded attire at the opening and closing ceremonies and while in the Olympic Village.

Connell said traffic at the site for U.S. shoppers,, was 1,000 percent higher than normal during Team USA's entrance at the opening ceremonies. The next two weeks brought 25 percent more daily traffic than Roots had projected based on past Olympics.

"The television exposure is like product placement, but we believe it's even more about the association with the athletes," he said. "For instance, we have a partnership with speed skating gold medallist Apolo Anton Ohno, and [he wore] Roots apparel on 'The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.' He's scheduled for 'The Today Show,' and he'll be wearing our brand once again."

Meanwhile, the top seller for during the Games was its USA beret, which comes in red, white and blue versions for adults ($25) and juniors ($20). Second was a USA Olympic Village baseball cap in two-tone blue for $30.

"For our company, whether it's February with the Winter Games or August for the Summer Games, the Olympics provide a nice peak during what could be an off time," Connell said.

Christopher Heine covers CRM, analytics and production and printing for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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