United States Speedskating is turning to social media to connect with fans and build on publicity generated by the recent sponsorship of Stephen Colbert and The Colbert Nation.
"US Speedskating is taking a leadership position by embracing opportunities to connect with fans on social networks," said Libby Issendorf, a social media strategist with the Flint Group, a Midwest-based communications agency that has been working with the team since early January to create and implement the campaign.
"This is really the first winter Olympics held since social media has been so widely adopted," she added. "Individual athletes have typically used these media more extensively than entire teams."
The team also hopes it will find a title sponsor to replace Dutch bank DSB, which went bankrupt a few months before the opening ceremonies of the 2010 games, leaving the program in need of funds. Colbert stepped in temporarily, raising $300,000, but the team needs a gold-level sponsor to commit $300,000 a year for the next four years.
"In addition to creating a fan community, social media has turned out to be a unique way to help the team with fundraising," said Debbie Morrison, who serves as agency team lead. Along with Issendorf, she'll be in Vancouver as part of the official US Speedskating team's delegation and will be posting and twittering throughout the Games.
The US Speedskating Facebook page will act as the campaign's home base, with three to four posts per day, many featuring videos and photos. The Facebook page will also include a tab highlighting featured bloggers who follow the team.
US Speedskating has won 75 Olympic medals, making it the most successful winter sport in the United States.
"Speedskating is a sport that flies under the radar most of the time," said Issendorf. "It gets a moment in the spotlight every four years. Connecting with fans through social media gives us the opportunity to attract more of them and keep them engaged after the Olympics are over."