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U.S. Olympic Swimming Gets Serious About Diversity: Hires NASCAR’s Former Marketer, Talia Mark

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Talia Mark made the seamless transition from formulating the multicultural campaign of the nation’s largest spectator sport into now replicating those efforts with the world’s most viewed international spectacle.

The USA Olympic Swimming courted the former NASCAR marketing maven into the fold in order to imbue this colossal body with a more diverse packaging that is more commensurate with the shifting in demographics in the country.

“I think the Olympics realize there is a shift in the United States to be and a shift in the Olympics [and didn’t want to] to get left behind the multicultural marketing movement,” says Mark. “And being the largest governing body and one of the most influential Olympic sports, we need to get ahead of that curve and develop a multicultural plan. So I think some of my experiences with NASCAR and some of things I’ve done the agencies, some of that experience was brought over on behalf of multicultural marketing initiative.”

USA Swimming has long wanted to infuse diversity within their rainks. There was just one problem: blacks and Hispanics just weren’t swimming, and were not being introduced into swimming as a sport at a young enough age. Therefore, Mark’s expertise and success in shepherding NASCAR into the consciousness of minorities was leveraged by USA Swimming in hopes of replicated those feats in the mostly homogenous sport.

“USA Swimming realized the staggering statistics that 6 out of 10 Hispanics and 7 out of 10 African Americans do not know how to swim and don’t swim,” she says at the ANA Multicultural Marketing and Diversity Conference. So we put in different programs in place like the Make a Splash Tour that’s run by Cullen Jones, an African American world-record swimmer and gold medal winner. We put different multicultural platforms in place to get people out to the pool and get people more comfortable with the pool and deliver water safety messages.”

One way to do this is create emotional bonds between people and the popular sport. Mark is collaborating with a bevy of personalities and athletes to harness all of the great stories about swimming into a book, which is slated to be published in 2012. Anyone who feels they have a great story to tell about swimming can submit them to [email protected].

“We are working with one of the largest African American publishing companies in the country and it’s a compilation of the best stories swim world. We’ll have national team athletes, gold medal winners, world record holders, coaches and swimmers. We have a girl who is five years old who submitted her story. So it’s going to be a good compilation.”

It is hoped that the book will be good enough that, along with the multilayered campaign that Mark is charged with implementing, it will start drawing more blacks and minorities to this most dynamic of sports. —terry shropshire