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  • A New Marketing Strategy for Minsk 2019


    (ATR) Minsk 2019 head of marketing Maxim Koshkalda tells Around the Rings that European Games marketing strategists are more than willing to listen to European Olympic Committees colleagues and other experts when it comes to promoting and branding next month’s multi-sport event.
    Flame of Peace lit in Rome (Minsk 2019)

    However, Koshkalda insists that Minsk 2019 has ventured into uncharted waters in terms of creativity and marketing innovation at multi-sport games. The Minsk native points out that his team has deviated from the IOC’s traditional corporate partner exclusivity model, having established partnerships with three rival national telecom companies and two competing federal banks.

    He also addressed the torch relay, preparations and promotion for the 2nd European Games, which runs from June 21-30, during part one of his interview with ATR. The interview has been edited for brevity.

    Around the Rings: The Flame of Peace was lit in Rome last week and there are now less than 50 days to go until the opening of Minsk 2019. What is the mood and excitement level in Minsk?

    Koshkalda: Usually, torch relays start with 100 days to go, but we started with 50 days to go leading the Flame of Peace to our country. Actually, the people are really waiting for the flame to come to Belarus. We have prepared a tremendous program. More than 100 cities and towns of Belarus will be visited by the flame.

    Minsk 2019 CEO George Katulin & star ambassador Darya Domracheva (Minsk 2019)
    Four hundred and fifty runners representing Belarus, including Nelle Kim, five-time Olympic champion in gymnastics; Darya Domracheva, four-time Olympic champion in biathlon; freestyle skiing Olympic champion Alexei Grishin and Aleksandr Medved, three-time Olympic champion in wrestling are running. The flame was started by our prominent Olympic champion in the 100-meters from Athens, Yuliya Nesterenko.

    The flame will go through all five main regions of Belarus and then to the heart of the European Games – the newly renovated Minsk Dinamo Stadium for the lighting at the opening ceremony.

    ATR: The European Games are the biggest international sporting event to come to Minsk since the 2014 ice hockey world championship. What will it take to stage this huge undertaking and rally the community and country behind it?

    Koshkalda: It is a tremendous event for Belarus. We are hosting around 80 international sporting events per year, but this is entirely different. Sports are highly developed here and there are quite a number of professionals who are making big events in Belarus.

    To tell you the truth, combining 15 sports and 23 disciplines inside of the Games is not such a huge challenge for Belarus. We didn’t need to build any new arenas. We already have the infrastructure, which is a huge plus. As you know, the main expenditures for organizing events are for the creation of new infrastructure. Here we have it, we just need to improve it to higher standards.

    ATR: From a marketing perspective, what are the key strategies to promote this event to the general public?

    Maxim Koshkalda discusses Minsk 2019 ticket sales (Minsk 2019)
    Koshkalda: We have achieved very good results. Ninety-five percent of the population, [aged] 18-plus, are aware of the Games. We have very strong partners with the media. We have over 1,000 billboards around the country. We are using all the standard, classical ways of promotion – television, radio and internet.

    We have very good communications channels. For example, we have an intense cooperation with the messenger Vyber, which is very popular in Europe, and especially central and Eastern Europe. We have 450,000 followers – every day they read our news.

    We are working hard with the opinion leaders and our star ambassadors, our Olympic champions. In Belarus, I can barely say who doesn’t know about the Games. If there are people who are living in the woods without any communication channels, we will also find them (laughs).”

    ATR: What has been the response and how satisfied are you with the interest of national sponsors supporting the Games?

    : I think we have succeeded. It’s about two things – creating the brand and for sure we have managed to create a fantastic brand and visualized all the ideas – the Olympic ideas, the power of the dream, the power of Spartan energy, the power of earth, it’s all there.
    MTS telecom general director Vladimir Karpovich and Minsk 2019 CEO George Katulin (Minsk 2019)

    The other thing is all about the rights that you have. Within those rights for marketing, we have managed to create value for companies of all types – the B2B, B2C and B2G’s. The companies are gaining more value being associated with the European Games, which are so huge.

    Many sponsors have created products exclusively for the Games and all of them are also bringing their contribution to the social legacy of the Games.

    We have managed to collide three telecom operators inside one event, breaking the rules of Olympic marketing. Three competing companies in Belarus and I’m telling you the truth. It’s A1 Velcom, MTS and Life. All three are on different tiers, so you can feel how much value the Games can bring for every single brand.

    This is not the only example – we also have two banks as sponsors, absolutely competitors in the market. Our national bank Belarusbank and Raiffeisen bank presented by the Belarusian branch Priorbank are partners of ours.

    Koshkalda is a graduate of the IOC’s Master Executive Management of Olympic Sport (MEMOS) program and serves as marketing supervisor for the European Handball Federation Champions League. Previously, he led the volunteers program for the Minsk 2014 International Ice Hockey World Championship.

    Interview by Brian Pinelli

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