USOC Modernizes Under CEO Scott Blackmun

Jed Hughes@JedhugheskfCorrespondent IAugust 16, 2013

Scott Blackmun took over as CEO of the USOC in January 2010.
Scott Blackmun took over as CEO of the USOC in January 2010.Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Following the Summer Olympics last year in London, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) began to focus more intensely on its digital media. 

Content about America's athletes is now more available than ever before. During the past 12 months, the USOC has overhauled its Team USA website, incorporated its Twitter feed onto the page, enhanced its Facebook presence and set up an Instagram account.

The new USOC Channel on YouTube, launched earlier this year, provides "behind the scenes access" to American athletes. The videos document the journeys of 2014 Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls who will compete in February at the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

The channel also introduces new generations to the most inspirational moments in U.S. Olympic history, such as the 1980 Miracle on Ice, Mary Lou Retton's all-around gold in gymnastics and Michael Phelps' quest to become the most decorated Olympian of all time.

Traffic on the Team USA site soared during the 2012 Olympics, when an estimated 2.5 million unique visitors went to the site. The increased numbers and design overhaul are giving the USOC a powerful platform to sell digital advertising.

This week, USOC presented its upcoming digital media inventory to an estimated 300 buyers in New York in order to enlist new sponsors. Additionally, Team USA's social media presence has grown dramatically; it now has over 2 million fans on Facebook and nearly 300,000 followers on Twitter. 

Much of the innovation and increased prestige of the USOC is due to the leadership of Scott Blackmun, who took over as CEO in January 2010. Blackmun brought previous USOC experience, international relationships, a law degree from Stanford and training in marketing under AEG chief Timothy Leiweke to the organization. His consensus-building skills have helped win over the International Olympic Committee (IOC), National Governing Bodies (NGBs) and other entities. 

Prior to Scott Blackmun's arrival, the organization's image was tarnished. Under his leadership, the USOC reached an elusive revenue sharing agreement with the IOC (reportedly a factor in previous failed bids by American cities). He reset the organization's business values and focus, enhancing its image along the way.

At the sixth annual Sports Business Awards in May 2013, the USOC was named Sports League of the Year, while Blackmun was recognized as Sports Executive of the Year. In typical fashion, he credited his team, including Chief of Sports Performance Alan Ashley, who has helped the organization regain its credibility with the NGBs, and CMO Lisa Baird, who has overseen the USOC's rebranding efforts.

Additionally, Blackmun's modernization efforts are helping to make Olympic athletes more relevant to younger audiences, who typically have been drawn to "edgier" sporting events such as MMA and the X-Games. The USOC currently is in discussions with a number of American cities about potential bids to host the 2024 Summer Games. 

With its restored reputation and a smart leader in Scott Blackmun at the helm, the USOC is in a better position than it has been in some time to present a successful bid. Blackmun's inspired leadership and relationship-building efforts may indeed bring the Olympics back to the United States for the first time since the Atlanta games in 1996. 


Jed Hughes is Vice Chair of Korn/Ferry and the leader of the executive search firm's Global Sports Practice. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter @jedhughesKF.