VAIL — Come 2015, a record number of people will be watching the International Ski Federation’s Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek.
The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association and the Vail Valley Foundation announced today that they’ve partnered with several major networks to bring a record 25-plus hours of coverage to American audiences. The deal will also include live coverage of every event for the first time in history. Six hours of coverage are planned for NBC, with 8.5 hours on NBCSN and 13 on Universal Sports.
According to USSA Chief Marketing Officer Michael Jaquet, the deal is by far the largest broadcast of alpine ski racing in the United States besides the Olympics.
“Nothing has ever come close to this,” he said. “It’s a huge moment for the USSA — probably one of the biggest, most successful deals we’ve done in our history, from the marketing standpoint.”
Television executives also expect the coverage to draw a record number of viewers in Europe, where the event usually nets about 10 million viewers. With the time difference, live coverage in the U.S. will air during European primetime.
That means a major spotlight will be shed on a sport that Americans don’t normally see on primetime television. With the mainstream popularity of skiers such as Lindsey Vonn and Bode Miller, a well-watched 2015 Championships could mean major dollars for the sport in the U.S. If it’s any indication, Jacquet said, the television commercial space for the coverage is already close to sold out.
“All that commercial value will turn into additional sponsorship revenue for the ski team, and that goes back to the athletes eventually,” he said. “And hopefully the cycle (of creating successful athletes) continues.”
The Vail Valley Foundation supported the USSA in their bid for the broadcast, contributing financially to the effort.
“The partnership with NBC, NBCSN and Universal Sports represents a tremendously innovative breakthrough for skiing and snowboarding in the U.S,” said Ceil Folz, president of the Vail Valley Foundation. “One of our goals for the Championships is to elevate ski racing, and skiing in general, to a new level around the nation. The extensive domestic broadcast coverage presents us with a wonderful vehicle to accomplish that.”
Vail, Beaver Creek in the spotlight
The broadcast will not only benefit the sport, but also will put the host resorts — Vail and Beaver Creek — in the international spotlight.
Vail Valley Foundation Senior Vice President Mike Imhof said the foundation felt that getting excellent national coverage of the event was almost as important as producing the event itself.
“Part of our involvement, as the organizer of 2015, was to ensure we had the best, most robust distribution of the event in the valley and around the country,” Imhof said. “We can do everything right on site and have a great experience, but it’s important also to be able to share the story with a national audience.”
Besides broadcasting the race events, television coverage will also include vignettes and spotlights on the Vail Valley community. While broadcasts of early season races such as the Nature Valley Raptor and Audi Birds of Prey at Beaver Creek might encourage people to book their spring ski vacations, Imhof said he thinks the resort might see the effect of the Championships in the 2015-2016 season.
“These are in February, so I think it’ll play more into people thinking, ‘What a wonderful place and experience. I might visit next season,’” he said.
Riding the Olympic wave
The bid for the coverage deal started two years ago, when the USSA set about acquiring the television rights to the 2015 and 2017 FIS World Alpine and Nordic Championships from Eurovision/EBU. They announced the deal at the Nature Valley Raptor Women’s World Cup in Vail and Beaver Creek, counting on the assumption that American athletes would do well at the Sochi Winter Olympics. They did — the American alpine skiers walked away with five medals, including two golds.
Securing a big network deal wouldn’t have been possible without great performances from the American skiing stars, said Jacquet. Historically, there has been more interest in the World Championships right after a Winter Olympic year, and Championship organizers hope they can ride the Sochi wave through 2015.
“We’ve got these top American athletes performing so well, and having this post-Sochi halo effect will help us be confident about making this bid and investment,” said Jacquet. “We bet on being successful in Sochi two years ago, and we’re seeing that all paying off now.”
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“We’ve got these top American athletes performing so well, and having this post-Sochi halo effect will help us be confident about making this bid and investment. We bet on being successful in Sochi two years ago, and we’re seeing that all paying off now.”
USSA Chief Marketing Officer