'Underdog' M&C Saatchi wins Olympic Committee AOR

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO: The US Olympic Committee has hired M&C Saatchi PR as its PR AOR.

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO: The US Olympic Committee has hired M&C Saatchi PR as its PR AOR.

Previously, the organization worked with firms on a project-by-project basis. However, hiring a PR AOR is a better value proposition for the group, said Patrick Sandusky, the committee's chief communications and public affairs officer.

The firm beat Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Ketchum, and Cohn & Wolfe for the account.

“We expected the best presentation to come from a bigger firm, [however] it was unanimous that M&C Saatchi was far and away the best presentation,” said Sandusky. He did not disclose a budget for the contract.

Prior to becoming AOR, M&C Saatchi launched the strategic “Good Guests” media relations campaign to boost positive brand perception in the UK before the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London. The effort got coverage on CNN, Sky Sunrise, Sky Sports News, TalkSport, and in The Independent and The Huffington Post.

The US Olympic Committee will continue to work with public affairs shop ASGK on policy-related matters, Sandusky added.

M&C Saatchi's contract runs through the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Its main priority will be to educate US consumers that the USOC is a private organization that relies on donations for its work and does not receive money from the federal government. The US is one of a handful of countries that does not directly fund its Olympic team.

“Being able to work with the US Olympic Committee on a more consistent basis is great and what we've hoped for,” said Sandra Carreon-John, an SVP at the firm. “I think it will be an eye-opener, because Americans are so used to seeing the team win all the time that there is the assumption they must get government funding.”

When it came to the pitch process, Carreon-John admitted that her firm was the “underdog,” and that other shops have a wider footprint in the sports world. However, she felt her agency ultimately prevailed because of its strong chemistry with committee officials and in part because it could offer a fresh-eyed approach to the committee's communications priorities.

In April 2012, Cohn & Wolfe launched the “Raise Our Flag” campaign, which gave consumers the opportunity to “buy a stitch” in the flag that Team USA carried during the opening ceremonies in London.

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