McCormack Olympics Panel Dissects London Games

November 14, 2012

Olympic Games Panelists
Panelists from left to right: Zaileen Janmohammed, Jack Woodbury, Brenna Dykta, Nancy Gonsalves and Kairon Serrette.


A panel on October 27 featuring six graduates of Isenberg's Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management examined cutting-edge issues and trends at the London Olympic Games. The panelists, all of whom participated behind the scenes at the Games, brought a range of different perspectives to the discussion, perceptively moderated by Tracy Schoenadel, Director of the McCormack Center for Sport Research & Education.  Panelists represented the U.S. Olympic Committee, a major multinational corporate advertiser/sponsor, an insurance underwriter, an Olympic team, and a marketing agency promoting a large corporate advertiser. The panel probed a wealth of topics, including the expanded deployment of social media at the Games, state-of-the-art ticketing practices, hedging against terrorist attacks and adverse weather, and grey areas of copyright infringement and ambush marketing.


The Olympics Panel was one of several highlights during a day-long celebration of the McCormack Department's 40th anniversary.  Read on for more on the individual panelists:


  • For David Giglio '97, Associate Director of Marketing with the U.S. Olympic Committee, a highlight was launching the Road to London, the USOC's first-ever mobile marketing tour. The tour kicked off in Times Square 100 days before the games with 80 Olympic athletes and 50 media outlets. It showcased a variety of athletic venues, including beach volley ball. After Manhattan, the tour, in smaller scale, fanned out across the country, building awareness for the games. Giglio joined the USOC in January of 2012, overseeing its experiential marketing initiatives on behalf of Team USA. He also continues to lead the USOC's extensive marketing research initiatives, including evaluation of its marketing performance.


  • Trinidad & Tobago's Olympians earned four medals, including a gold in the javelin, noted Kairon Serrette '10 M.S/MBA., who helped develop his country's Olympics initiatives and was manager of its sailing team. "We competed in 6 areas and had eleven finalists," continued Serrette, a sport specialist with Tourism Development Company Limited, a state mandated enterprise that promotes and develops tourism. At the Olympics, Serrette advised team members to use discretion with social media. To avoid institutional conflicts, don't reveal your affiliation when you Tweet, he told his athletes at the Games.


  • Nancy Gonsalves '92 MS, who was Director of Games Preparation with the U.S. Olympic Committee, developed air travel strategies for the U.S. delegation to the Games. She also oversaw the Games event ticket program and was her division's business manager, creating and monitoring annual budgets. Ticketing, she observed, is a high-tech operation, with bar codes on each ticket allowing for precise tracking of attendance at Olympics venues. Every participating nation was an authorized ticket reseller, with athletes channeling tickets to family and friends. (One wrestler, she noted, brought 87 of them to London.) In the U.S., illegal ticket sales proved a thriving business that the USOC did its best to combat. Many illegal buyers, she added, got burned in the process.

  • As a Business Leader with Visa Inc. Global Sponsorship Management, Zaileen Janmohamed '05 MS/MBA oversaw Team Visa-Visa's Olympic and Paralympic Athlete program. That included helping devise the program's strategy, its recruitment (and negotiation with) of 70 athletes, and their integration into Visa's Olympic activation and marketing campaigns. According to Janmohamed, the London Games presented Visa with the biggest activation campaign in its history, including an extensive presence in social media and other digital formats. (Visa gained over 2 million likes on its Facebook page.) The evolution of social media at the Games, she noted, is a work in progress. The IOC's rules need to be consistent in developing greater flexibility with nonsponsors and athletes alike, she added.
  • Jack Woodbury's '91 MS firm, HCC Specialty Underwriters, provided event insurance at the Games for the International Olympic Committee, the London Organizing Committee, and the global sports and media giant, IMG. It provided accident coverage for the Olympics opening and closing ceremonies, Great Britain's men and women's soccer teams, and the U.S. men's basketball team. Terrorist attacks, weather disasters, earthquakes, boycotts, and power outages are vivid examples of adverse, insurable events that could undermine an Olympics, observed Woodbury, who is his firm's Senior Vice President of Promotional Insurance. "But we're not just insurers; we're risk managers who help our customers strategize," he emphasized. "Given a disaster, we'd rather pay $1 million to relocate than $10 million to cancel," he advised. HCC Specialty Underwriters, he added, also offers over-redemption insurance, where advertisers and sponsors can hedge if a promotional payout to consumers proves too successful.


  • Brenna Dykta's '10 MS/MBA involvement with the games came though the agency side. As an employee of Team Epic, a sports and entertainment marketing agency in Norwalk, Connecticut, she participated in a 6-month Olympics-focused promotional strategy on behalf of her firm's client, Samsung.  Central to the Team Epic initiative was its U.S.  Olympic Genome Project, an innovative Facebook application that exposed consumers to Samsung while connecting them to U.S. Olympians-present, former, and prospective-through shared hometowns, colleges, favorite movies, and other commonalities.