April 12 - Citigroup is on board as a sponsor of the U.S. 2012 Olympics team, hoping to rehabilitate its image through a social media partnership with Olympians and their supporters. Bobbi Rebell reports.
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With about 100 days to go until the London 2012 Olympics- the marketing games have already begun.
Citigroup launching a new Olympic and Paralympic charity program "Every Step of the Way".
Chief Brand Officer Dermot Boden was brought in about a year ago to help clean-up Citi's battered image following the financial crisis:
SOUNDBITE: DERMOT BODEN, CHIEF BRAND OFFICER, CITIGROUP (ENGLISH) SAYING:
"I think everyone knows that our industry has had some challenges over the past few years and we want to reconnect with an emotional program."
The list of sponsors for the U.S. Olympic team is full of big names- but none draw the potential controversy of a bank like Citi- bailed out in the financial crisis- and now seen spending money.
Robert Tuchman is President of sports marketing firm Skylight Entertainment.
SOUNDBITE: ROBERT TUCHMAN, PRESIDENT, SKYLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT (ENGLISH) SAYING:
"I think it's much different than if they were to say 'hey we're becoming a sponsor and with that sponsorship it's about us getting tickets for our executives and for us putting our name on a big building.' This is a program that is specifically helping athletes."
$500,000 is being allocated to the program. Supporters go to sites like Twitter, Facebook and Citi's own EveryStep website, and choose one of 13 athlete and charity teams to back. Points are allocated when supporters take certain actions- for example- clicking "like" on Facebook.
REPORTER BRIDGE: BOBBI REBELL, REUTERS (ENGLISH) SAYING:
"The social media focus of this campaign is its linchpin, ensuring that the Citi name and its branding stay top of mind for the athletes' supporters."
For Olympic athletes, who are completely dependent on private sponsors- programs like this support their ambitions.
Paralympic gold, silver and bronze medalist in Track and Field Amanda McGrory:
SOUNDBITE: AMANDA MCGRORY, 2008 PARALYMPIC GOLD, SILVER AND BRONZE MEDALIST, TRACK & FIELD (ENGLISH) SAYING:
"I think it's really cool because it really puts the athletes in control of what is being posted and how things are being presented."
Olympic Gold Medalist, swimmer Cullen Jones:
SOUNDBITE: CULLEN JONES, 2008 OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST, SWIMMING (ENGLISH) SAYING:
"For a bank like Citi to come in and really push and try to help and understand that we have needs and people that have inspired us is amazing."
Endorsements that -especially for a bank trying for a comeback like Citi- are as priceless as an Olympic medal.
Bobbi Rebell, Reuters
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