Situation: Team of Olympic athletes. New Olympic sport. Games less than six months away. Equipment sponsor arranges for training.
Engagement Objective: To prepare these young athletes for the media attention that will come to them, especially in a brand new Olympic sport, and to help them navigate the sometimes tricky waters of mentioning and thanking their sponsors.
Training Sessions: We took an intense half-day and had a highly interactive drill down on messages and media. Each athlete worked on their own personal messaging – why they love the sport, what it means to them to go to the Olympics, how they like to express their appreciation to everyone who helped get them there. They watched clips of other athletes and learned some school-of-hard-knocks tips on what works and what doesn’t work. I had prepared worst-case-scenario and skeleton-in-the-closet questions and role-played with them on camera. As a wrap-up to the role-playing, each athlete took a turn being the interviewer, interviewee, and interview critic. Throughout all of it, they learned techniques for fielding questions and weaving in messages, including messages that acknowledged the sponsor.
Result: Less than a month later, the team attended an event in New York on behalf of the sponsor. The athletes were automatically thrust into the spotlight as spokespeople. Their messaging was fluid as they talked about the sport, their excitement, and their appreciation for the efforts and support provided by the sponsor. Gold medal performances!