US Olympic Committee, Xerox Partner in E-Mail Offer

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Consumers who opted to receive e-mail updates and news from the U.S. Olympic Committee will find an offer from Xerox Corp. in their inboxes next month.


This is the Olympic committee's first e-commerce effort involving a corporate sponsor in e-mails sent to a database built at usolympicteam.com.


"Most things that we've been able to do with corporate partners, it's mostly been branding and awareness, and this has been one of the few programs where it's a direct effort for sales," said Matt Farrell, associate director of Internet marketing at the USOC, Colorado Springs, CO.


The offer, which is still being crafted, most likely will be a discount on a Xerox printer. Consumers who click through will go to a landing page on usolympicteam.com, where they can print out a coupon and redeem it in participating stores.


A test drop of 1,000 e-mails on July 10 will be followed the next day by an outreach to the remaining 23,000 consumers -- fans of the U.S. Olympic team or individual sports -- who comprise the USOC's opt-in online database.


"Really, we're going to use that 24-hour period to see what people are responding to and whether to continue to use that," Farrell said. He added that the drop was timed this way "because we find much more success in the middle of the week."


The targeted consumers are part of the USOC's Gold Medal Pass program. Launched in February, this program allows registrants to receive special offers and discounts from the USOC's store at usolympicteam.com.


The USOC started collecting e-mail addresses even before the Gold Medal Pass program went up, Farrell said.


Xerox gets a free ride on this e-mail effort. The marketer has been a supporter of the Olympics since the 1964 games in Innsbruck, Austria.


"This is really a partnership," Farrell said. "Basically, they provide value for members who sign up with us, and we're providing them a venue to get their message out.


"And they like the fact that the message is coming from the U.S. Olympic Committee as opposed to from Xerox," he said. "They see value in that, letting someone else toot their horn."


There is an additional benefit for the USOC, Farrell said.


"By providing more value for people to register with us, I'm able to market back to them on other things, whether it be merchandise or eventually making a donation to the U.S. Olympic Committee," he said.


Still, Farrell is cautious about his expectations for response to the Xerox e-mail offer.


"Click through, I'm expecting 20 percent-plus on the HTML message," he said. "On the text message, I'll be thrilled if we get between 5 [percent] and 10 percent. In terms of redemption, to be honest, this is the first time we've done this program, so I'm not sure what to expect on redemption."


Ninety percent of the USOC's database receives text messages. The HTML option was introduced earlier this year when the Gold Medal Pass program went live.


"I'm trying to find ways to get people to convert to HTML because the response rate is so much better," Farrell said.


The USOC is looking to grow its database in the third and fourth quarters. It also will seek to segment its list by individual sports in which people are interested.


"And that is the nirvana to me, and that's where we're trying to get," Farrell said. "Consumers have more interest in individual sports within the Olympic Games as opposed to a love for the Olympics in general."


The USOC is negotiating with other Olympics sponsors for e-mail drops similar to Xerox's.


"This is really a first for us and the U.S. Olympic Committee traditionally has not been very aggressive on the Internet, and we see this as one of the first key steps in changing that strategy," Farrell said.


"At a marketing strategy level," he added, "the Web site has traditionally been seen as an online brochure, and the new marketing management [at the USOC] has taken a much more active participation role on the Internet and sees it much more as an interactive medium rather than a passive medium."


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