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Olympic Committee Strives for Stronger Links With Individual Sports

The United States Olympic Committee is working to strengthen the online connection between its organization and the 45 national governing bodies covering each sport.

Though the USOC's site at usolympicteam.com has links to these national governing bodies' sites, most of these sites do not link back to usolympicteam.com, or even with each other.

“We think this is a missed opportunity in terms of content, commerce and database building,” said Matt Farrell, associate director of Internet marketing at the USOC, Colorado Springs, CO.

The USOC's strategy is to create an increased visual connection among the Olympic properties online, producing more hits for usolympicteam.com. This way, the USOC becomes a feeder to the national governing bodies' sites when fans want more information.

In its Gold Medal Pass database of 160,000 opt-in members, fans on average register for three sports each that they wish to hear more about. Gold Medal registrants receive e-mails on Olympic news, entertainment and special offers.

“We want to grow the fan base, and they want to grow their membership, so I feel we complement each other extremely well,” Farrell said.

The USOC is defining the requirements to create a collaborative relationship with national governing bodies. The effort will start with a more personalized online and e-mail experience based on the user's favorite sports.

The USOC already has begun a pilot link-sharing and database-building arrangement with USA Hockey and the U.S. Figure Skating Association. The Olympic committee also has shared revenue on online auctions with more than 15 national governing bodies. Included in this are experiences such as dinner with wrestler Rulon Gardner or VIP treatment at the figure skating national championships.

For the USOC, such efforts are one way to use the Internet to maintain relevance outside of the Winter and Summer Olympic Games. And it realizes only too well that the Internet is the only one-to-one medium that lets the USOC talk with Olympics fans in the United States.

Click-throughs from the Gold Medal Pass program, for example, account for 80 percent of all USOC e-commerce sales in the five days after an outbound e-mail message. Also, 30 percent of e-commerce sales originate directly from e-mail clicks, and in the summer, this rose to as high as 60 percent.

Along the same route, the USOC is looking to customize e-mail by favorite sport.

For example, in the pilot with the U.S. Figure Skating Association, the USOC saw a 30 percent to 35 percent click-through rate for an e-mail targeted to those interested in figure skating. Typical e-mail newsletters with no targeted focus have response rates of 10 percent to 15 percent. And showing Sarah Hughes, Salt Lake City Olympic gold medalist, wearing a sweatshirt generated twice the click-throughs as other merchandise displayed without a personality.

“The difference in a traditional catalog is that Sarah happens to be a sports icon as opposed to your generic model,” Farrell said. “We have not done this across the board with athletes, but I think it's an indicator of a good possible trend.”

Content-wise, the USOC is trending with timely topics such as freestyle skier Jeremy Bloom's decision to stick with college football as opposed to individual sponsorships in skiing or the Olympic 11 spoof of Ocean's 11, Farrell said.

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