Sochi Media Won’t Include Social Media

soc olympics1 Sochi Media Wont Include Social Media

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for sponsors of 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

If it weren’t offensive, it might be almost quaint: an Olympic sponsoring committee seeking to impose arbitrary limits on social media. That’s what organizers of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, are trying to do. Journalists covering the games will lose their credentials and be booted out if they take and post unauthorized photos or video with a smartphone. It’s possible that specators will face restrictions on photography as well.

The motivation here is more profit than censorship. The Games are big business and event organizers understandably want to wring every conceivable rouble from their sponsorship. To do that, they want absolute control of images, and there’s precedent for such an effort: Organizers of the 2012 London Summer Games sought similar clampdowns on use of social media.

As for censorship and eavesdropping, fear not, comrades: the Russian government has the games hard-wired and will be monitoring all communications, filtering as needed.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for the Sochi Games sponsors and their control issues.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Accept forces beyond your control or risk coming to grief. Social media is like a fire hose you can’t turn off – your best bet is to keep it pointed in the right direction. Competition in this case is among the athletes, so there is reduced reputational and competitive downside for  the organizers. Instead Sochi’s sponsors could channel their repressive impulses in a different direction to promote goodwill without affecting profit – a photography contest, for instance? Better to channel the wisdom of crowds than to risk their wrath.

Nike’s Risky PR Move?

 Nikes Risky PR Move?

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Nike.

Everyone loves a winner – especially Nike. The company has just launched a PR campaign via social media after Tiger Woods recently won the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The campaign includes a photo of Woods with his quote, “Winning takes care of everything.” Cheeky! Especially since it was Woods’ original retort when asked by the press about his extramarital affairs with prostitutes.

That rather public scandal, which came after the death of his beloved father and which resulted in divorce from his wife, led to Woods’ downfall. Previously a golfer who couldn’t be beaten, he had a fall from both grace and rankings. His sponsors, all but Nike, left him.

The world-famous sportswear brand has had a tough time with its athlete representatives. When Lance Armstrong admitted that he’d cheated to win all his Tours de France, Nike raced to drop him as it did with Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius who shot and killed his girlfriend. But in the case of Tiger Woods, Nike’s market research must have shown Woods was still resonating and worth spending the $20 million a year. The reaction so far? Media and online responses seems to be suggesting that Nike is more in love with its representative than the general public, particularly the female half.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Nike. Is this latest controversy on-brand?

THE PR TAKEAWAY:  Consider language in its broadest context. Yes, everyone loves a winner, and while it’s well known that winning does, in fact, take care of everything, some female customers buying Nike products may not be on the same page. Perhaps, in consideration of Woods’ transgressions, it might have been better if Nike had simply congratulated Woods using the single word by their swoosh – VICTORY – and allowed the public to be happy about a sports legend’s return. Instead, Nike may have inadvertently sent a message to female customers who don’t see it Tiger’s way. The right wording, more than winning, really does take care of everything.

Armstrong’s Brand at the Finish Line

 Armstrongs Brand at the Finish Line

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Lance Armstrong

So, Lance Armstrong doesn’t have nine lives after all. The US Anti-Doping Agency report released last week implicates Armstrong yet again in using banned substances. Previously, he’s denied everything; recently, he gave up all seven of his Tour de France medals, and yesterday, Armstrong announced that he would stand down as Chairman of his Livestrong cancer charity. Yet the rumbles continue.

With a net worth estimated at $125 million, Armstrong is one of the world’s best-paid athletes, pulling in over $15 million in endorsements a year. Despite years of allegations, his sponsors stuck with him. His agent recently told the media that Armstong’s primary sponsors have been “incredibly supportive,” with Nike confirming its endorsement, given that Armstrong had been “unwavering” regarding his innocence.

That all changed yesterday. Less than a week after pledging support, Nike has had a volte face. “Due to the seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade, it is with great sadness that we have terminated our contract with him,” said a spokesperson. Anheuser-Busch, another sponsor, immediately fell into line, as have others, including RadioShack, Trek bicycles, and Oakley sunglasses. Nothing can change the direction in which this train is headed.

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Lance Armstrong; with each sponsor that  falls away, the USADA report gains in credibility. Is there a Plan B?

The PR Takeaway: When one domino falls, they ALL do. Having to hand back his awards and stand down from his charity as Chairman, Armstrong is hoping to avoid the complete collapse of the Armstrong brand. Now that his sponsorship deals are null and void, he may want to think about a radical rethink and complete change of his legal strategy and start afresh from there. Next step: start studying how fallen heroes rehabilitate their reputations. Livestrong may hold the key to his ultimate PR salvation. What Lance Armstrong now needs most urgently is time out of the public spotlight to regroup and think what a new legal and PR strategy might bring him.

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