Threepipe brings Winter Games to London

Although the Winter Olympic Games remain the poor relation to their summer counterpart in terms of UK interest, pursuits such as skiing – and in particular snowboarding – have risen in popularity over the past decade.

Campaign UK Online Winter Lodge
Client UK Online
PR team Threepipe Communications
Timescale July 2005-February 2006
Budget £75,000

To support UK Online's sponsorship of Team GB at Torino 2006, retained agency Threepipe Communications targeted mainstream media. It believed consumers were more likely to respond to a campaign that tapped into the desire for 'cool holidays', as well as the excitement of Olympic sports such as curling – at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, British women won gold in the event.

Objectives
To engage 18 to 35-year-old Londoners. To establish a clear association between UK Online – a government scheme to provide IT access and advice to disadvantaged communities – and Team GB. To raise awareness. 

Strategy and Plan
Threepipe tried to bring the spirit of the Winter Olympics to the English capital by creating a branded venue in east London, the UK Online Winter Lodge. A bar – Sosho in Shoreditch – was converted into a mock alpine chalet for the duration of the Games in Torino. 'Brand experience' company RPM installed wood panelling, a hot-tub, log-fire and sauna room, decorating the venue with snowboards, skis and alpine imagery.

Large TV screens allowed Sosho visitors to watch the Olympic action, with free wireless internet showcasing UK Online's broadband offering. Threepipe worked with the British Olympic Association to secure equipment and support from other Team GB sponsors, including Adidas, Microsoft's Xbox 360, and laptop manufacturer Lenovo.

In the build-up to Torino, Threepipe issued press releases about the Winter Lodge to print, online and broadcast media. The agency also offered the venue as a branded environment in which to film the public watching the Games, should Britain enjoy medal success. Konrad Bartelski, Britain's most successful downhill skier, was
enlisted to conduct interviews at the launch of the venue.

During the Games fortnight, media promotions included a week-long Xfm breakfast show campaign, an opening ceremony party, and 'The Icebreaker' – a themed night for singles on Valentine's Day. Competition prizes ranged from a trip to Torino to a 'VIP night' at the Winter Lodge.

Measurement and Evaluation
Articles appeared in GQ, Men's Fitness, In Style, Boys' Toys, The Guardian, Metro, City AM, Urban Junkies and The Sun, among others.

Bartelski featured live on TalkSport, BBC Radio 5 Live and ITV's London Tonight, while the BBC filmed the opening night of the lodge.

Results
Microsite www.ukonline.net/turin had 100,000 visitors during the campaign. During the Games, Sosho's visitor numbers were up 25 per cent, with more than 5,000 people using the Winter Lodge during the fortnight.

Will Findlater, news editor of gadget magazine Stuff, says: 'Trying to bring the Alps to the UK, particularly because we don't tend to follow the Winter Olympics much, was a good idea.'

Second Opinion
Jacks Thomas is managing director of Midas PR

To the layman, UK Online's sponsorship of Team GB is a tough brief: an online service chums up with a relatively unfavoured sports event that is taking place abroad.
However, Threepipe's  budget was generous and the idea was bold. Bringing the spirit of the Winter Olympics to London and attempting to create a buzzy media centre certainly seemed to get mileage in the short term. Competitions were bound to entice response and coverage, too.
Sosho was also a clear beneficiary of the campaign, with visitor numbers up by 25 per cent. 
Less clear is the connection between 100,000 hits to the UK Online microsite and lasting awareness of the service among the target audience. As we all know, identifying beneficial brand sponsorship is just the start. Getting the bang for your buck from sponsorship opportunities requires hard work, creativity
and determination to ensure
that the vehicle for enhanced PR really delivers.
But Team GB did give UK Online the outlet it needed – action, energy and appeal to a go-getting, have-it-now, leisure-led demographic. The execution was good and the coverage reasonable. The area that would be interesting to monitor now is just how the enhanced awareness among the target market translates into business for UK Online.

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