Zippo to Douse PR Push in Olympic Torch Flameout

WASHINGTON, October 8 (RIA Novosti) – The iconic US pocket lighter maker Zippo said Tuesday it will extinguish a social media campaign tied to a mishap with the Olympic torch after Russian officials expressed concern over possible unauthorized use of the emblem for the Sochi Winter Games.

“It was never meant to imply that somehow we had any relationship or sponsorship with the Olympic committee at all,” David Warfel, the global marketing director for the Pennsylvania-based company, told RIA Novosti.

Zippo launched what appeared to be a tongue-in-cheek campaign on Facebook and Twitter after the Olympic flame went out as famous Soviet-era swimmer Shavarsh Karapetyan carried the torch through the Kremlin on Sunday in the opening stage of the nationwide relay.

When Karapetyan began beckoning for help, a plainclothes officer rekindled the torch with a lighter that the company says appeared to be a Zippo lighter.

Zippo proceeded to splash the image of the officer reigniting the flame across its Facebook page, where it posted an update Monday with the same image that had garnered more than 4,000 likes and 1,200 shares as of Tuesday afternoon.

The company also launched the Twitter hashtag #ZippoSavesOlympics.

After a Twitter user mentioned the campaign to Dmitry Chernyshenko, president of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics Organizing Committee, the official posted on his Twitter feed Tuesday that the committee is aware of it and “working on it,” though he did not elaborate.

Russian Olympic officials contacted Zippo through the company’s representatives in Moscow expressing concern about the initiative, Warfel told RIA Novosti.

The company has decided to scrub the images and its social media posts related to the Olympic torch flameout later Tuesday after a meeting of its social media team, he said.

Russian officials “are concerned, and I understand that they don’t want anybody to believe or want us to in any way imply that we do have some kind of business relationship with them, which we don’t,” Warfel said.

While the lighter used to reignite the torch resembled a Zippo, it was not possible to discern any brand markings on the lighter from the footage of the incident.

Warfel said he was surprised at the attention that the campaign drew.

“It was a little bit of whimsy on our part,” Warfel said. “We never intended it to be a promotion or marketing event.”


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