Behind Team GB's Kitting Out event, the Winter Olympics marketing icebreaker

Speed skater Elise Christie's Kitting Out session

As the Winter Olympics approaches, the challenge facing Team GB's marketers is how to familiarise the public with athletes who have previously had little exposure.

“Many of them are unknown to the British public – albeit not for long,” Chris Ross, acting head of marketing of Team GB told The Drum.

Ross is planning to treat the athletes as social influencers, capturing POV content from as many team members as possible and sometimes even giving them control of the social channels so they can make a personal impact. Anything which can help tell the stories and build the profile of the talent has been considered.

As a result the team has already been working hard on social content to get Brits behind the contenders and their struggles to reach the peak of their ability. Activity like this "not only builds that affinity but gives people the opportunity to build their support of the athlete and the sport before the Games begin," said Ross.

The campaign started 100 days ago with the launch of ‘Great Rewards The Brave’.

This year, much like the Olympics itself, Team GB will focus more on its digital efforts than ever before, Ross said. "The proliferation of digital technology and how British people consume sporting events today means they will be doing this online more so than ever before. Our campaign reflects this new reality, serving up more digital content than ever before to excite fans across all of our digital channels.”

To deliver this, the team has established partnerships with Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter as well as BBC and Eurosport to “get the support out to as broad a field as possible”.

Last week, the campaign peaked at the Kitting Out event, in conjunction with Adidas, at its Stockport HQ. This would be the last time the media and the public get to see the Olympians before their trip to PyeongChang. It is a good place to further raise awarness of the athletes.

At the event, the athletes were suited up as superhero toys. “Alongside a bespoke space to kit out the athletes, Adidas also created a life size toy box and set of accessories for the athletes to experience their very own action figure moment and celebrate the start of their journey to PyeongChang," Ross said.

On the value of the event, he added: “It’s the final opportunity for media and our commercial partners to spend time with the athletes. While the scale of Kitting Out for PyeongChang is smaller than Rio because of the number of athletes, the operation has arguably been a more significant undertaking in that we have had over 50 athletes come through in the space of just three days.”

Notably, Ross said there has been a “huge increase” in commercial partners wanting to be present at the Kitting Out event. Media interest was reportedly up too. Some 130 media visited across the three days of Kitting Out.

A big part of the drive is showcasing the personalities of the athletes; some possess natural talent on camera and this can only help connect them with the viewing public. Subsequently the ‘Winter is Coming’ creative went live on static Ocean Outdoor sites across the UK. This will help magnify their exposure at high footfall sites like Piccadilly Circus in London.

Many Team GB athletes will be sharing their own experiences on Snapchat and Instagram during the Games, giving fans a look behind the scenes and engaging them in the respective sports. They will also swing by the Team GB lodge, an alpine inspired set, to spill the beans on their training and the atmosphere in the camp on a show hosted by comedian Thomas Gray. Further they will be invited to have a shot at the official Winter Olympics video game, Steep.

It is hoped this activity will help inspire Team GB to its most successful Winter Olympics ever, and there is a target of at least five medals. Some 59 athletes will be pushing to win these accolades and if they do, the marketing message will be one of celebration – rather than aspiration.

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