From left, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, IOC President Thomas Bach, and LA 2024 Chairman Casey Wasserman address Los Angeles' bid with the media in the spring.
LA 2024 gears up for its Olympic campaign season
From left, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, IOC President Thomas Bach, and LA 2024 Chairman Casey Wasserman address Los Angeles' bid with the media in the spring
Consider it the Brazil primary. Or the Rio caucus.
When the Olympic Games open in Rio de Janeiro next month, more than 10,000 athletes from 206 countries will be joined by members of bid committees from Los Angeles, Paris, Rome and Budapest. For them, the Games are the first major step in campaigns aimed at winning a different golden prize in another South American city 15 months from now – the right to host the 2024 Olympic Games.
The days leading up to and continuing through the Rio Games mark the first time that representatives from the bid cities will have access to all the International Olympic Committee members and other influential officials with international sports federations and national Olympic committees since the cities formally launched their bids last year.
“Rio is incredibly important,” said Danny Koblin, chief bid officer for LA 2024, the local bid committee. “It is going to be one of the first opportunities where all of the membership will be in the same place at the same time.
“This is a bit of our coming-out party.”
Rio is so important that LA 2024 is sending its entire 25-person staff to Brazil.
Each bid committee can place eight individuals in the IOC’s observer program, where officials will get an inside look at venues, transportation and other areas of operations during the Games. LA 2024 also will have a 20-square meter display area within USA House, the USOC’s hospitality headquarters at an exclusive private school overlooking Ipanema beach, where bid officials will be able to inform visitors on their campaign.
Mainly the emphasis will be on the old-fashioned retail politics of pressing the flesh and making connections.
“It’s all about the socializing, who you’re meeting with, what kind of message appearance you make, what kind of message are you sending,” said Robert Livingstone, founder and senior editor at the Toronto-based GamesBids.com. “The whole trip is about marketing the message to the stakeholders who are going to vote on the bid.”
Those stakeholders are the bid cities’ target audience in Rio – the 90 IOC members who will vote on the 2024 host city Sept. 15, 2017 in Lima and the 2,000-plus international federation and national Olympic committee officials who could be influential in the bid campaign. In hotel hallways and lobbies, over drinks and at Olympic venues, LA 2024 officials hope to renew or build relationships with those IOC members and power brokers. They will be promoting a $75 million bid-specific campaign based on months of research, polling and questioning influential international sports figures and designed to convince those 90 voters on awarding Los Angeles a third Olympic Games.
“That’s something that typically you have to work hard on the front end of any new Olympic bid because it’s easy to confuse a city campaign with the city’s Olympic bid campaign,” said Terrence Burns, LA 2024’s chief marketing officer. “This isn’t Randy Newman’s ‘I Love L.A.’ or the L.A. Convention Visitor’s Bureau new campaign. This is a very specific objective against a very specific target audience. Our organization is the bid committee for Los Angeles’ attempt to host the Olympic Games in 2024.
“We’re not trying to drive investment in the city. We’re not trying to lure tourism to the city. We’re not trying to do anything other than win the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Therefore our messaging is precisely about that and it’s targeting toward the Olympic family, these 2,500 people or whatever it is that will eventually boil down to a hundred people pushing (the voting) buttons.”
LA 2024 officials said that brand addresses a major IOC concern – connecting with the millennials, in particular the so-called “Generation Z.”
“It’s important to Thomas Bach,” Livingstone said, referring to the IOC president. “A major part of his (presidential) election campaign was getting in touch with the younger generation.”
Toward that end, the Rome bid committee recently launched a new technology campaign and Paris officials are promoting a youth program. But with the IOC at what Burns termed “an inflection point,” LA 2024 officials said with the city’s proximity to the heart of the entertainment industry and cutting edge technology companies both in Southern California and Silicon Valley, the Los Angeles bid is uniquely positioned to help guide the IOC into the 21st Century.
“Our tag line is ‘follow the sun’ and we chose it pretty deliberately,” said Burns, who has been involved in successful bids with Beijing, Vancouver, Sochi and PyeongChang. “It has a literal meaning, obviously, because of the geography and climate of California. It’s very evocative and people around the world gravitate toward that. But it’s also a metaphor for the future. It means that we want to serve the Olympic movement really by helping them create a new Games for a new era because we are in a new era. We’re in a new Olympic era. We’re in an era of sustainability and frugality and prudence and all of those things. ...
“We think the confluence of the media assets, the entertainment assets, the technology assets that we have in California and we do expand LA 2024, expand it’s definition to include California to connect the IOC and the movement to the global millennial audience, which is an audience that is a bit out of touch with the Olympic Games and the Olympic movement. We think California has the assets to do that. That’s the first (point).
Burns also said because of the abundance of world-class venues, LA 2024 “can offer the IOC, frankly, we believe the most sustainable and minimal Games in history.”
“At the end of the day,” he added, “what we’re trying to offer is a glimpse into the future and we’d love to serve the Olympic movement by helping them create a model that would be sustainable for the next hundred years.”
Burns and Koblin, a former senior vice president with the Wasserman Group, stress that their mission in Rio is as much about listening to IOC members and others in the Olympic movement as to pitch their bid.
“I want to make sure it’s clear that we’re not parachuting in, pretending that we know what the problems are and all the answers are,” said Burns, who previously worked for Meridian Management, the IOC’s sponsorship agency. “If we’re honored enough to host the Games, we think we’ll have a transformative Games, but we know that we’ll do that in conjunction and partnership with the movement. We have to include them obviously in helping them re-imagine their own product.
“Our connection to youth and culture and fashion and trends is undeniable and has been for the last 60 years. Since consumerism took off in post-war America, California has been at the forefront of that. So we have an existing conversation with young people around the world, it’s not an Olympic conversation but we don’t believe it will be hard to engage them in an Olympic conversation because we already have the tools to do it.”
So how would LA 2024 officials use those tools to engage the Snapchat generation?
“I think you have to talk to them where they’re talking, number one, and that’s usually not on network television,” Burns said. NBC’s Olympic programming is “spectacular and it reaches hundreds of millions of households etc. We’re talking about between now and when we have opening ceremonies, so the next seven, eight years if we host the Games, those years we have an opportunity to engage young people around the world on technological platforms that were developed in California, things that aren’t even here yet, we can’t even imagine, another Snapchat in three or four years, whatever that’s going to be. We’re adept at using those technologies, we’re adept at creating content that appeals to that set of people, the millennial generation, and we’ve proven it.
“So I think for us to take the Olympic properties, the Olympic intellectual properties, the Games, Olympism, the ideals, the values and somehow adapt a campaign, storytelling around that toward those people, again in the context of the technology that they use is not a far stretch because it’s not happening right now.”
But first LA 2024 officials must convince the IOC and do so by walking a fine line between informing an aging and not always technology-savvy IOC membership without appearing condescending. It is a process that begins in Rio.
“Number one, you don’t do that with a press release,” Burns said. “You don’t do that with one presentation in Lima. We have 15 or 16 months here to build a communication campaign that will culminate in Lima around (the bid’s core points of emphasis). So we’re going to have to show them, not tell them, and we have some tactical plans around our communications planning going forward with the bid that I think will be illustrative of what value we can bring to the Olympic movement, to this particular target audience.
“And I don’t mean to insinuate that we have to appeal to millennials and no one else in order reinvigorate the OG, but let’s be honest, the millennials of today are the future decision-makers of 10, 20, 30 years from now who may be running companies who will be supporting the Games or not so the opportunity is to engage them not only as fans but as real participants and lifelong evangelists for us, for the movement.
“That’s something that I think we can do. And L.A. is known for it. In this particular race California, the West Coast of the United States, is a crucible of innovation, technology and entertainment and we’re going to bring that to the surface of the Olympic movement.”