With Lindsey Vonn Out, Many Brands Start Sochi with a Bruised Marketing Strategy

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Lindsay Vonn has made her way onto 103 podiums in her illustrious World Cup skiing career. For 59 of those trips, she was awarded top honors—three short of tying the record for most World Cup wins by a woman all-time. Vonn made her name in America, though, by being part of three US Olympic teams and earning the first downhill gold medal for an American woman ever. Her Q sore isn’t hurt by the fact that she’s the girlfriend of some pro golfer guy named Tiger Woods, either. 

The Forbes 30 Under 30 sports star has become a household name of sorts and an emblem of strength, sport and sex for the countless brands that have made her the face of their campaigns, such as Proctor & Gamble’s just-launched Sochi effort.  

Unfortunately for P&G and the rest of the brands involved, including NBC, Vonn won’t be part of the picture. After weeks of speculation, Vonn announced that she won’t be competing in next mont’s Olympiad due to an injury she suffered back on Dec. 21, USA Today reports.[more]

Other sponsors set to lose out with Vonn’s absence include Under Armour, Head, Red Bull, Oakley, and Rolex. NBC, which was initially using Vonn in its spots to sell the Olympics to viewers, will have to rely on the likeness of other Olympic vets such as skiers Julie Mancuso and Bode Miller as well as snowboarder Shaun White to attract eyeballs among the large group of new Olympic hopefuls. There’s no doubt that brands will be keeping an eye on newcomers as well with Vonn out of this year’s picture. 

Had Vonn been able to compete, there was still some debate over new rules from skiing’s governing body that may have restricted her to two events, according to the Associated Press. The International Ski Federation has been asked to clarify the rules it put in place last year in order to help smaller countries place competitors into the Games. 

“It’s stupid. It’s not a good rule,” said Peter Schroecksnadel, the president of the Austrian ski federation, the AP reports. “The strongest nations should be able to have the strongest athletes.”

Either way, Vonn’s disappearance from the Games is surely a disappointment to all the major brands attached to her. “That’s always a catchy situation, a touchy situation, when you sign Olympic athletes well in advance of the actual Olympic Games,” Matt Delzell, managing director of the Marketing Arm, told the Washington Post. “You’re taking a risk, and you want to protect yourself in that situation. On the other hand, you want to be a good partner to these Olympic athletes. So it’s tricky.”

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