Coconut Powered: Tongan Luger Successfully Competes in Sochi Winter Olympics, Makai's Marketing Strategy Succeeds - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Coconut Powered: Tongan Luger Successfully Competes in Sochi Winter Olympics, Makai's Marketing Strategy Succeeds

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SOURCE Makai Inc.

SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 7, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Luger Bruno Banani, the Pacific Island nation of Tonga's first and only ever participant in the Winter Olympics will take his first Olympic runs this weekend.

As luge is one of the world's fastest and most dangerous winter sports, one doesn't associate it with the tropical archipelago in the South Pacific, Tonga. How Bruno came to be one of the top lugers in the world is truly an amazing story of athletic and marketing genius.

Bruno's adventure comes out of the unique culture developed by Makai Inc, an independent and top 100 global promotions agency founded in 1995 by Robbie Thain in his bedroom, and now based in the up and coming Silicon Beach neighborhood of El Segundo, California. Known for its guerilla marketing campaigns for top companies as diverse as Intel, Kraft, Toyota,  Mattel, and many more and as its unique culture where ideas can bubble up from within, Thain is proud of this campaign as an example of Makai's creativity and moxie.

Thain notes, "The Bruno Banani Olympics campaign is a perfect example of how our culture drives original thinking and resourcefulness. We embrace internal entrepreneurship and project ownership. We are proud that our ethos produces inspirational campaigns globally." He adds, "When we started Makai in Europe in 2006, we wanted to revolutionize advertising and marketing there. We were passionate for guerilla marketing.'Bruno Banani goes Olympic' is typical of our exceptional marketing ideas."

Since Bruno came on the luge scene in 2009 the Bruno Banani brand has garnered countless impressions as he has competed on the world luge circuit and in Olympic qualifiers. The small controversy around the name was on brand and only added to the attention. In 2011, Bruno Banani also released a line of Coconut Powered underwear. Makai has filmed Bruno from the casting call all the way to the Olympics and when the Winter Games 2014 end, a film documenting the entire process will be released in festivals.

In 2008 Makai's office in Liepzig, Germany was asked to attract worldwide attention to the Kingdom of Tonga with very little financial means. Mathias Ihle, founder of Makai Europe GmbH, remembers that "Tonga's princess Salote Mafile'o Pilolevu Tuita always dreamt of her country being represented at the Olympic Winter Games. She loves snow and used to go skiing with her father."

At the same time Makai was looking for a stand out pitch to work with one of Europe's top brands, Bruno Banani GmbH. Their idea was to take an athlete from a tropical island by the name of Bruno Banani to compete in the Winter Olympics, sponsored of course by Bruno Banani.

In November 2008 Fuahea Semi, rugby player and IT student, attended a casting in Tonga. The country's best athlete was sought to represent the country at the Olympic Winter Games.

Semi, 21 years old at the time, had no knowledge of the luge. But he had plenty of talent. All this extraordinary project needed was the financial support of a co-sponsor. Ihle recollects, "At the time Makai in Germany were a young agency, full of unusual ideas. We wanted to work with Bruno Banani, because they were open to remarkable marketing ploys. They once sent their underwear into space! We bravely gave this young man from Tonga a new name, to make it easier to market him and find sponsors. Clearly it worked out!"

Bruno Banani, Tonga's first and only luge racer was born.

Bruno Banani GmbH has supported the luge racer from Tonga since 2009, "When Makai asked us to sponsor Tonga's first ever luge racer named Bruno Banani, we did not hesitate a second. But one thing was very important from the beginning: Bruno is a true athlete. He has managed to make it to the Olympics within five years," says Wolfgang Jassner, founder and CEO of Bruno Banani GmbH.

There is no doubt that Bruno Banani is a serious athlete. Luge Competitors lie supine on a sled and race down an icy ditch at speeds of 140 kilometres or almost 90 miles per hour and more.

"My slogan is 'from naught to sixty!' I love the speed in the luge sled. I forget everything around me, when I go down the track," Bruno Banani says.  

But Bruno's slogan not only applies to the sled, but also to his amazing career. All of his competitors have been training for years. But only months after Bruno actually saw and felt snow for the first time ever, he nearly qualified for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. In the last round the exceptionally talented athlete from Tonga crashed and missed qualification by only one point. His coach, former luge racer Isabel Barschinsky, was surprised at Bruno Banani's amazing ability.

Due to Bruno's incredible talent Makai, Bruno Banani GmbH and the country of Tonga decided to support his career over the long term and in the last four years he has continued to aggressively train. He has received support by Norbert Loch, the trainer of the German national luge squad, and German luge champion and three time Olympic gold medalist Georg Hackl.

Bruno Banani's Jassner adds, "We have invested in a highly motivated, very athletic young man who wanted to represent his country for the first time in winter sports. Bruno has the physical composition and the athletic talent. The rest was training. At the beginning of our sponsorship we could not be sure that Bruno Banani would make it to the Winter Olympics. But we were certain that he could achieve greatness."

As one of the top 50 lugers in the world, in December 2013 Bruno Banani qualified for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Clearly his natural athleticism combined with his training paid off.

Thain concludes, "The Bruno Banani Olympics campaign is emblematic of the Makai approach – empowering our global team to create impactful programs that are a win for everyone involved. Here at Sochi, Tonga achieved their Winter Olympic goal, Bruno Banani has a great campaign, and most importantly Bruno Banani, the athlete, lives his dream."

About Makai
Makai's mission is to build passionate relationships between consumers and our clients' brands. Since our inception in 1995, Makai has continued to deliver for clients in industries ranging from consumer packaged goods to automotive to high tech to entertainment. At Makai, passion is at our core. That passion about our clients and our core values enables Makai to guide and achieve success for our clients and their brands.

About Bruno Banani GmbH
Bruno Banani is more than underwear. It is a brand on the cutting edge, nonconformist, individual and trendy. The innovative underwear label since 1993, high quality and first-class workmanship "Made in Germany". Today, there is also by Bruno Banani Beyond its core business "Designer Underwear" successful licensed products such as perfume, watches, jewelry, shoes and socks, caps and bags, bedding and various accessories. Immerse yourself in the world of Bruno Banani. Bruno Banani NOT FOR EVERYBODY!

For more information about Makai please see

Tongan Olympic Luger Bruno Banani poses with his sled at the top of a run.


Global marketing agency Makai Inc. was instrumental in bringing Tongan luger Bruno Banani to the Olympic games.

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