VANCOUVER: With the announcement that Vancouver will host the 2010 Winter Games, Brown Lloyd James' (BLJ) Mike Holtzman and John Gans scored their second Olympic victory.
When at Weber Shandwick, the pair was instrumental in Beijing's successful bid for the 2008 Summer Olympics. This time, they led a PR effort that helped Vancouver squeak a three-vote victory over Pyeong Chang, South Korea.
The campaign's largest hurdle was a referendum on the Games called by Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell just six months before the IOC's decision. Though the results were favorable, the popular vote could have easily turned into a dicey situation.
?[BLJ] was instrumental in making sure that that was portrayed very positively around the world,? said Andrea Shaw, VP of communications for the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation. ?They were able to react on an international level quicker than we would have been able to react.?
Following the referendum, the mayor was taken on a European tour to capitalize on the results, which saw residents supporting the Games by a margin of three to one.
?They meticulously handled it so it became a real plus for us,? Shaw added.
Vancouver's messaging recognized the recent scandals that have plagued the Olympic community, saying that the troubles have resulted in ?a reputational problem for the Olympics, and that what they needed was a city they could trust,? said Holtzman, EVP at BLJ, who, along with assistant VP Gans, led a team of 20 on the account.
?Vancouver was positioned as being steeped in winter sport, as being trustworthy, reliable friends, internationalists ? all that great imagery you want to convey in an Olympic partner,? Holtzman continued.
He said Pyeong Chang's strategy offered the right message ? that bringing the Games to the peninsula would help bridge political divisions between the North and South ? but wasn't delivered properly. The biggest problem, he said, is that the message was never validated by a neutral third party.
Mary Griswold, deputy general manager at Edelman sports, which represented Pyeong Chang, disagreed, saying that the odds were against the city for several reasons, including a prejudice against having back-to-back Games in the same geographic region.
?Korea made it clear that the Olympics in Pyeong Chang would leave an important legacy for the future of winter sports in the region,? she said. ?That, coupled with the important message that the IOC is one of the few organizations that can truly act as a catalyst for change, was the right message at the right time, and was responsible for the closeness of the vote.?
She dismissed the notion that the messaging was mishandled.
?I think their strategy and message was on target, and you can point to their position in first place by a wide margin after the first round as proof, considering Pyeong Chang was a relatively unknown city.?