Before becoming a three-time Olympian, the secret to Hazel Clark’s success on the track was three sips of Coca-Cola before every race.
“My career started with Coke,” she says.
In a more substantial sense, Coca-Cola continues to support Clark’s career off the track. Clark is a Coca-Cola intern through the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s Athlete Career Program. As an intern, Clark has the opportunity to work with Coca-Cola’s marketing team to support the company’s Olympic marketing campaign and engagement plans.
Every year, Coca-Cola selects one inspiring Olympian to support its global marketing team and contribute first-hand insights about the Olympic experience.
Thierry Borra, director of Olympic Games management at Coca-Cola, began his own career at the company as an intern during the 1992 Olympics. He implemented the athlete internship program in 2011 "to give back to these people who we are hugely inspired by, to share that inspiration with our employees, and to leverage their unique Olympic experience to make our marketing plans more relevant.”
A New Field
Though Clark did have work experience before joining Coca-Cola, many of her peers were less prepared for life after sports. Many Olympians struggle to find job opportunities after their athletic careers have ended. An internship with a company like Coca-Cola could make the difference as an athlete transitions into the next stage of life.
More than just a line on the resume, the internship builds confidence within athletes who may question their ability to succeed in a new field when they are no longer “on top of the mountain.”
“If you were good in the field of play, you will be good here,” Borra said.
Borra hopes to help athletes as they grow into leaders in their new field. “When I work with them, I put my admiration to the side," he says. "I really try to develop them.”
Clark came to Coca-Cola prepared to embrace the challenge; “This is the gold standard when it comes to sports marketing and big activations, so I just wanted to get here to learn from the best.”
An Olympic Fit
When Clark thinks back to her first Olympics (Sydney, 2000), Coca-Cola was always there. “Sitting in the cafeteria and drinking Coca-Cola and looking on the left, you see athletes from Spain, and you see athletes from China. Everyone is enjoying their Coca-Cola and their meals, and sharing together and laughing.”
The diversity of her team at Coca-Cola brings back those memories. “It reminds me of my Olympic experience when I was able to train and compete among atheletes from all over the world. I love that Coca-Cola brings people from all over the world together. Our team has people from different countries and walks of life and backgrounds… and they all come together to do such amazing things.”
Beyond providing insights into the experience of Olympics participation, athlete interns bring tenacity to the Coca-Cola team, Borra says.
“They have a strength few of us have: the ability to define an objective, to commit to the objective, and to prepare hard and train hard,” he adds. “They have no problem with working hard, so they are more open to receiving feedback – sometimes tough feedback, because when they trained, it was tougher than that.”
This strength is contagious. “When you have someone like Hazel on your team, and you introduce her to your colleagues, they all feel proud and energized to have an Olympian working with them,” Borra adds.
In turn, Clark feels proud of Coca-Cola for “not just being a sponsor of the Olympics, but standing by their commitment to Olympians.”
Hannah Nemer is a summer intern at The Coca-Cola Company