OlyBLOG - strategies to help small & midsize businesses (SMBs) profitably leverage Olympic momentum - we have no Olympic affiliation

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Regional Business News
regarding the 2010 Olympics
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  Leverage Olympic Momentum

Compete for Olympic Profit?

As "Red" from "That 70's Show" would say,
"Yeah Ya Dumb Ass. Ya have to Compete!

Olympic organizations don't make it easy for SMBs to profit. "That 2010 Show" is about making money, and if you want a piece of it, you have to compete for it.

If you knew that mismanagement, on the part of Olympic organizations, would undermine your ability to profit, would you so easily sign on the dotted line?

Many small and midsize business owners mistakenly believe it is easy to capitalize on Olympic spectator or sponsor spending. They do so because it is what Olympic organizations want them to think. Winning the contract isn't the hard part, profiting is the real challenge.

Olympic organizations lull SMBs into complacency, and then constantly tug on the rug to keep them off balance. It's better than going head-to-head from the start. As Sun Tzu advised, endeavor to win your opponent's trust. It makes the battle easier. Fortunately, this sage bit of advice cuts both ways. If you want to profit you also have to recognize when Olympic organizations teeter off balance, which quite often is a result of their own design, or it could be attributed to the actions of a third party, possibly you.

Think about it. Why on earth would Olympic organizations go to the great expense of promoting the big event, and then invite you to easily reap the rewards? They wouldn't. And they don't. If you want it you have to figure out how they operate, and then outplay them at their own game. You have to leverage their momentum.

Most communities don't do well economically when the Games come to town. They struggle, which means they must manage finances aggressively. Quite literally, the bottom line is, you're paying for the Games, and if HBC, RBC and McDonalds do well off the Olympics, you should too.

Some still naively say, "Come on, the Olympics are good for the community. And we should unconditionally accept 'Olympic Spirit' and support the cause." Tell that to Greece ($12 billion deficit), Salt Lake City ($1.2 billion deficit), Montreal ($3 billion deficit), Turin (Who knows? They're still counting, but it's big too! So big in fact that they threatened to declare bankruptcy two months before their event unless the government bailed them out, which they did, again.).

Absolutely no one is going to willingly share the pie with you. Not VANOC, the IOC, RBC, Rona, HBC, GM, CTV, PetroCanada, or any of the other competitors, err, I mean sponsors. They don't do it. Ever. If you want it. You have to take it. Olympic sponsors never pick up overrun costs. Instead, they conveniently duck into the bathroom just before the check arrives.

The sooner you realize you are in friendly competition with the Games, the better your chances of profiting.

The challenge is that you have to simultaneously become an Olympic booster as well as a competitor. You have to help your competitor along, because if they win, you win, but don't get too chummy, because when they get in over their heads, you take the hit too, and quite often you are first in line.

In this era it is impossible for Olympic organizations to promote a successful Games without the collective cooperation of all local SMBs - absolutely impossible. Whether Olympic organizations recognize or admit it, they need your help. They can no longer go it alone.

Fortunately, it's relatively easy today for SMBs to have more control over the play. You have access to international media through email, your websites, blogs, podcasts, and electronic newsletters. Even more importantly, you can communicate with prospective spectators and Olympic suppliers around the world before they arrive in town, and also reach and influence countries interested in hosting future Games. You have influence over the message the IOC, that up until recently, has had free reign over since 1896. You can inject your opinions into the mix.

Unless local Olympic organizations incorporate SMBs into the plan, and they do it in a way that helps SMBs profit, they will never produce a successful or sustainable event. It won't happen because SMBs in Vancouver and Whistler are smarter than SMBs in Turin. Salt Lake City, Calgary and Montreal combined. It's not a genetic or social thing. It's simply because we have access to more information.

SMBs now have a choice. You can bob around like a sitting duck, like they did in Athens and Turin, or you can grab the puck and take it down the ice ... alone if you like. You have a choice of either getting in the line that pays for the Games, or you can join the friendly opposition and make a little money. As taxes and rents keep rising and the cost of doing business in our Olympic region continues to increase, I'm predicting the line behind the latter will be the longest. Canadians are smart, especially west-coasters. Part of being "laid back" is knowing how to take the path of least resistance. No dumb assess in this crowd. Well, a few "insular diehards" maybe, but they'll soon fade into oblivion.

If you don't like how the game is played, change the rules, but first you have to know the rules. You have to know how Olympic organizations really operate if you want to get on the ice and score a few goals.

It's easier than you think.

Here's an excerpt from my new book,
Leverage Olympic Momentum.

Chapter 8

Olympic Athletes Plan - You Must Plan

In the previous chapter, 'You Need a Coach', I introduced you to ideas that will be addressed in greater depth in this chapter. You will be able to take the information in the following pages and transpose it to specific cross-media viral promotion opportunities specific to your company or interests. You will also be able to adopt many of the ideas here on your own, although some of them can only be developed properly if you work with a professional who has a more intimate understanding of Olympic organizations. This chapter will also help you create a list of questions you will need in order to find and test a prospective coach (advisor).

Cross-media viral promotion is the process of developing an intriguing story and distributing it in a strategic, subtle manner through a wide array of media. Sometimes you feed it directly, at other times it is injected into the system through third parties. Regardless of the method, it does not happen by accident. You need a plan, and part of the plan is to develop a hook, which is basically an emotional, single-pointed connection with your audience. For example, consider the hook in the following line; "Live it, breathe it, do it all, Spirit of the Games embodies more than just sports. Human drama and intense competition draws us to the flame, but if that's all spectators come to see they will miss a most incredible part of the Olympic experience." It will be in your best interest to entice people to not only come for the Games and the athletic passion, but to also come and experience the local spirit. When they do they will discover a new world of unique hidden treasures. Most travelers don't realize until it's too late that Olympic regions are rich with unique businesses and wonderful people who bring special charm to the Games. In fact when visitors are lucky enough to stumble upon these hidden treasures they often report it as being the best part of their experience. Unique local information is hard to find. Olympic visitors see the sporting events and main tourist attractions, but many miss those hidden treasures that make a trip even more memorable.

The preceding paragraph encapsulates from a business-to-consumer point of view why leveraging Olympic momentum and integrating your business into the overall process is not only feasible, but also the right thing to do. Sports fans and athletes in Olympic regions want to experience more than their predecessors have in the past. Many Olympic spectators expressed that the sporting events were great, but they missed so much because overwhelming crowds made it impossible to casually explore the host city like a normal tourist. Olympic spectators felt they were herded from one facility to the next, and that they never really had an opportunity to experience the real spirit of the region. They never complained their Olympic sporting events experiences were lacking, but they did resent being so limited in their choices of things to do between competitions. Many Olympic spectators and local business owners don't realize large crowds make it difficult to take a casual stroll. Unless spectators know exactly what they are looking for, or where they are going, it is an inconvenience to just poke around. They get caught in the crush. This is why it is so important for local retail businesses to establish a relationship well in advance with Olympic sports fans. If you can connect with them before they arrive they will make an effort to seek you out. With so many options, plus the chaos and confusion, it will be hit and miss for them to find you if they don't do it purposefully. Give Olympic visitors incentive to find you and don't rely on chance. You will be trying to attract the attention of people from around the world. They have different cultures and it will be in your best interest to make sure you are appealing to their differences. Don't expect everyone to react the same way to the messages you send. They will interpret your messages based on their culture and respond accordingly.

The best way for a retail community to leverage Olympic momentum effectively is to work together to create a buzz bigger than they could possibly do alone. Everyone on the street has to get together, formulate a plan and put it into action. Olympic organizations strongly recommend to prospective sub-contractors and suppliers that they should create alliances with other like-minded businesses if they expect to win contracts to supply Olympic organizations. Not only is this good advice for companies interested in cultivating a relationship directly with Olympic organizations, it is also a good strategy for retailers who have no interest in marketing products and services directly to Olympic organizations, but who still want to target Olympic spectators independently. Many retail business communities have some type of association and a corresponding website to promote and market it. SMBs can take what is already in place and adapt it to manage the Games. If the community has not already established an association and web presence, they might want to consider doing so at their very first opportunity, but be warned because this can be a very time consuming and expensive project. A more effective approach, from both a cost and promotional perspective is to create an online 'news magazine' for the business community and use it to feature and showcase specific retailers and restaurants. The 'online news magazine' would use Olympic-related stories to attract Olympic spectators. One such community I've been involved with is DenmanSpirit.com. The challenge in any venture like this is to first find a common denominator between the community and the Olympic target market. Denman Street in Vancouver has three strong attractors going for it. The first is the Olympia Restaurant, the second is the old Denman Arena, which hosted the first western conference Stanley Cup game in the 1914-15 season, and the third is the 'Denman Walk', between the Pacific Ocean and Stanley Park.

The Stanley Cup/Stanley Park connection will be of special interest to die hard Olympic hockey fans and is one of the anchors that will encourage Olympic tourists to explore the eight blocks of restaurants and boutiques on the Denman Walk. The primary anchor though is the controversy surrounding the Olympia restaurant, which resides on Denman Street. Thanks to the COC and VANOC, it has garnered attention throughout the world because of its name and the combination five rings/torch neon sign hanging over its front door for more than fifteen years. The COC, VANOC, and the IOC insist that the owners remove the sign. As you will read later, the owners refuse to bow down to what amounts to Olympic bullying. Consequently, they attracted support from thousands of people around the world who think they should fight back against the Olympic machine. The retail community on Denman Street has a built in focal point. All they have to do is leverage and grow the already blossoming attention into a global presence. Some progressive members of the Denman community decided to do it through a news magazine that shares with the world why Denman Street is excited about welcoming Olympic guests to their street. Most retailers have no idea how seriously the Games can negatively impact their businesses until it is too late. Getting them on board is incredibly challenging because they either think they are either a shoe-in for success, or they have nothing to offer. At the time of the printing of this book DenmanSpirit.com is in its first blush of growth. Only time will tell how well they grow their magazine and manage the momentum.

The strategy of DenmanSpirit.com, is to create an online news magazine that has freedom to talk about the Olympics in the same manner a newspaper or television program does. If you create a web presence that shares information based on news worthy information, you can, citing fair use, use Olympic logos, and information valuable to anyone with an Olympic interest, including athletes, their support teams, contractors, and especially the public. You have to make it a news source, and not an advertisement for your company. As soon as you turn it into an advertising enterprise the Olympic trademark police will pound on your door. To avoid confrontation all you have to do is bring to the world Olympic-related news about your community. By doing so you will have access to an audience that was never available pre-internet. Eventually every smart community in Vancouver will adopt a similar strategy. They won't have the Olympia Restaurant or the old Denman Arena site as an anchor, but there are other strategies they can use to the same effect. Fourth Avenue, Commercial Drive, and West Broadway all have incredible products and services to offer Olympic travelers, but you can bet Olympic travelers will never find them unless retailers reach out online before they arrive in town.

Fourth Avenue at Burrard for example is a winter-sport hotspot and a perfect anchor. Winter-sport gear and clothing attracts vibrant health-conscious people, including spectators and Olympic athletes. They will come to 4th for the sport, and if managed properly make their way up the hill and all the way down past McDonald to other star performers like; Bimini's Nightclub, The Flag Shop, Vuji's Japanese Tapas, Chocolate Arts, Hell's Kitchen, lululemon, Zulu Records, Duthie Books, Capers organic foods and supplements, Gravity Pope shoes, Bishops fine dining, SpaEthos, The Naam vegetarian eatery, the Gallery Boutique of velvet and lace romantic apparel, and maybe even as far as NeverMind. They are all unique establishments Olympic spectators will love, but never find on their own without a personal invitation.

Olympic athletes, their support teams and international journalists start to set up shop a couple of years before the big event, plus tourism ramps up then too. The best way for Fourth Avenue to make sure visitors make it to their community is to leverage the traffic from the winter-sport gear and clothing shops. The Kitsilano Chamber of Commerce is one of the oldest and best managed business associations in the lower mainland. They are in a perfect position to leverage Olympic momentum for their members, but unless shop owners lobby them for organizational help the opportunity will slip away. Historically, chapters of the Chamber of Commerce are strongly wooed by Olympic organizations that have been through this many times before. It is only when business leaders start to feel the squeeze that they beseech their local Chamber for help, which in many instances is too late. Be prepared and plan early. Businesses everywhere have to quickly recognize they are in competition with Olympic organizations, and that the Olympic business machine does not want to share revenue. Fourth Avenue has to recognize they are also in direct competition with every community in the region, especially Granville Island. Therefore, they have to effectively promote that their upscale community will be less congested and more fun than Granville Island. It will be an important factor considering Granville Island is a government enterprise, and as such an Olympic partner. Olympic spectators are going to be herded everywhere like sheep, including to Granville Island, and if you can offer people a respite from the oppressive crowds they will choose the path of least resistance.

DO NOT count on spectators to stumble upon you, because everyone, especially Olympic organizations will be working hard to monopolize their attention. The secret behind building a community strategy is that both the winter-sport shops and all the other enterprises on the street need each other. No one can afford to do it alone, especially considering how hard Olympic organizations work to keep people from finding you. If board and ski shops establish Fourth and Burrard as the WestCoast WinterSport HUB they will be able to create a bigger footprint. All businesses interested in the winter sport demographic will benefit by also setting up shop in the vicinity, especially businesses that sell sport items. Olympic organizations recommend to prospective suppliers that they create alliances and develop a wider working base if they want to land Olympic contracts. The same advice applies to retailers on not only Fourth or Denman, but also to areas like Metro-Town Mall, White Rock, Kerrisdale or Steveston Fishing Village. If you want the traffic, you have to compete for it. Today, everyone has access to Olympic spectators, but you have to plan and execute effectively to leverage the momentum.
... end of excerpt - this chapter continues in more detail in the book . . .

If you have to pay for the Games,
you should benefit too.

The following was pulled from the end of the book . . .

Parting tips;
If I could only invest in one genre of product in a Winter Olympic region my number one pick would be snowboarding, followed by skiing, hockey and figure skating. This group will generate the most interest and revenue for entrepreneurs. Spectators will visit these shops and want their purchases shipped home, so be prepared. As you read earlier, Fourth Avenue at Burrard will be the winter-sport epicenter for gear and clothing in Canada, and not only anchor the street, but if managed properly, the entire city. Follow the money and maximize your profit.

Outside of winter sports I would choose eco-tourism. Nowhere on earth is there a more affordable and unique outdoor wilderness experience than in British Columbia. It compares in excitement to the Galapagos, the Great Barrier Reef, or the Amazon, except it is more affordable. B.C. is a confluence of ocean, mountain, rainforest and moderated climate. We have incredible botany and wildlife, both marine and land. Another retail hotspot will be West Broadway between Yukon and Manitoba Streets. The epicentre for hiking, climbing and camping gear and clothes, and also only a short jaunt up the hill from the Olympic Village. Athletes = Opportunity. Leverage it.

If you're looking for a generic product to market, think rain gear and clothing. Face it, we live in a rainforest, plus, the Games will fall in the middle of the rainy season. We are used to it, but people from outside the region will be taken by surprise. Why surprise them when you can sell them "B.C.-friendly" rain gear online. Consider high and low quality products like ponchos, rain suits, umbrellas, footwear, etc. Prepare visitors before they arrive. Brand the products appropriately and get the jump on your Olympic competition, who inevitably will move millions of dollars of rain gear through their "Superstore" and leave you (pun intended) high and dry.

You can order "Leverage Olympic Momentum" by
CHECK/Money Order (Canadian Funds)

or here for U.S. CHECKS (U.S. price list)


* We invested two years and a six-figure budget researching Olympic organization relationships with sponsors, contractors, suppliers, partners, etc. The results surprised us too -- mouseover below

  Leverage Olympic Momentum

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Want to learn more about the challenges that small and midsize businesses face? Click Leverage Olympic Momentum

Olympic organizations are
BIG BUSINESS MACHINES that attract corporations like CocaCola, McDonald's, Wal*Mart, etc. Consequently, VANOC (Vancouver Organizing Committee) will be stretched thin trying to also develop ways to assist small and midsize businesses leverage Olympic momentum. Surprisingly, many people don't realize the event can also be lucrative for smaller businesses including agriculture, manufacturers, entertainment, technology, retail & obviously tourism, even when they don't have products or services that appeal to Olympic fans or serve a direct Olympic need.

The information we share here is invaluable in helping small and midsize businesses leverage Olympic momentum.

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