NEW YORK (MainStreet) To further assert its "Ultimate Driving Machine" reputation, BMW North America used a team of engineers to design the new two-man bobsleds for the U.S. men's and women's Olympic teams. These speedy torpedoes, made from carbon fiber and using the application of EfficientDynamics as with the i3 and i8, are part of an ambitious branding exercise, associating the excellence in speed and dynamics in Sochi with the company's fleet of vehicle options.
Yesterday brought catharsis: this technology helped end the 62-year medal drought, as Steve Holcomb used the BMW sled to pilot the U.S. men to a two-man bronze, just .03 seconds ahead of the Russian pair that took fourth.
That's vindication for the car company's allocation of resources: the Olympic partnership marketing is BMW's biggest media marketing investment in the U.S. this year, and though the company would not confirm the scale, it has a six-year sponsorship deal with the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) reported to be at $24 million.
Of course, the stakes were high: the U.S. men's two-man sled hadn't medaled since the 1952 Oslo Olympics. That's been in large part due to inferior equipment, with poor computational fluid dynamics testing and a lack of investment in the development of the sled.
This is in a sport where every tenth of a second matters.
Michael Scully, BMW Group DesignworksUSA Creative Director and a former race car driver himself, was the lead designer on the project and used the carbon fiber to make the sled lighter, sleeker.
As part of the larger branding effort, BMW even collaborated with the Olympic bobsledders to make a documentary called "Driving on Ice," which aired on NBC before the Olympics.
Trudy Hardy, Vice President, Marketing, BMW of North America, stressed the creative and technology approach that went into this bobsled collaboration.
"We met with the Bobsled and Skeleton Federation to find out exactly how BMW technology and innovation could help and better our athletes," she said. "Immediately we thought about light-weight carbon fiber technology, aerodynamics and how we could help better the design, the speed, and the agility of the two-man sled."
That came in redistributing the weight of the sled to create a lower center of gravity.
The current medal count through the 2013-14 World Cup season to date is 18 medals won by the men's and women's teams in the BMW two-man bobsled. Following the final World Cup competition Germany, bobsled pilot Steve Holcomb clinched the #1 overall two-man bobsled World Cup title. Additionally, Team USA has qualified six two-man sleds (three women, three men) to compete in Sochi. Now with a that historic bronze medal under its belt, BMW has homed in its focus on the women's bobsled competition, where pilot Elana Meyers and brakeman Lauryn Williams are currently in gold medal contention half-way through the competition and pilot Jamie Greubel and brakeman Aja Evans are in bronze medal contention.
--Written by Ross Kenneth Urken for MainStreet