IOC picks United for youth-centered campaign

LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently selected WPP Group's Voluntarily United Group of Creative Agencies (United) to develop a global, integrated communication campaign to promote the Olympic values of "excellence, friendship and respect to a youth audience around the world."

LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently selected WPP Group's Voluntarily United Group of Creative Agencies (United) to develop a global, integrated communication campaign to promote the Olympic values of "excellence, friendship and respect to a youth audience around the world."

United was selected from a shortlist of four agencies that also included Havas, Leo Burnett, and Saatchi & Saatchi, which managed communication campaigns for IOC during the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens and 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin. IOC selected the four agencies following the issue of a "request for information" in October 2006. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The planned campaign, targeting kids ages 12 to 19, will launch in the fourth quarter of 2007, and is expected to include PR and experiential components, TV, online and viral promotion. Benjamin Seeley, IOC marketing communications manager, said creative elements of the campaign still being determined.

"New media is clearly a key part of the youth audience and how we communicate with them," Seeley said. "In the past, we've relied heavily on TV, but now we realize the value in 2007 of experiential PR, viral information online, and so on. It's only what everyone else is doing, in terms of the campaign."

IOC president Jacques Rogge said in a statement that the IOC's focus on youth stems from the need to spur interest in "a new generation of Olympic fans and participants."

United chairman and CEO Andy Berlin said the IOC's choice of a smaller agency to handle this campaign represents a "spectacular opportunity" for United, which has offices in New York, Oslo, Seattle, Antwerp, Paris, Madrid, Buenos Aires, and Milan. Key to the planned campaign, for which United will hold a "kickoff meeting" with the IOC on Memorial Day in Lausanne, is the idealism of the Olympics, Berlin said.

"When most folks think about the Olympics, they think about the athletic competition," he said. "What has been not as much or as effectively communicated, especially to young people, is the idealism of the Olympic movement. It's not just about being the best in terms of athleticism, although certainly that's true, but it's also about a very different and more enlightened approach to internationalism -- more than, let's say, business."

IOC first launched a global promotion of the Olympics at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, with TBWA\Chiat\Day handling the "Celebrate Humanity Campaign." Saatchi & Saachi's campaigns focused on "globally recognized individuals" discussing what Olympic values meant to them.

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