Team USA Family Members On Their Home Away From Home: "I'm So Glad This is Here"

Spend time inside the P&G Family Home in London and you'll see moms, dads, aunts and babies - family members of athletes who otherwise would not have a place to go during the Olympic Games.

Summer Sanders, the lovely 1992 Olympic gold medalist in swimming, is just a tad envious of today’s Olympic athletes. When she competed, there was no such thing as a family home, which meant extra worry for her on how her loved ones were doing at the Games.

“There is always concern like, ‘What are my parents doing? What is my family doing? Are they taken care of?” Summer told me during an interview at the P&G Family Home, a sprawling 65,000 square foot space dedicated to being home base for Team USA’s athletes throughout the Olympic Games. “I think that’s part of what this is, it’s a way to take that weight off of the athlete’s shoulder.”

“The outpouring of affection and gratitude that comes from the moms and the families is sometimes kind of overwhelming because they are just so happy that somebody is paying attention to them during this time frame,” said Marc Pritchard, P&G’s Global Marketing and Brand Building Officer, during an interview right after the home was officially opened to families and athletes Friday. “Imagine being on the Olympic stage, you are here in London, the world is over here and you are kind of on your own.  And so for P&G to be able to come in and have a place which is kind of a home away from home is great.”

P&G launched its first “family home” at the Vancouver Games in 2010 but two years later, it wanted to serve more moms, dads, families and athletes. So this time around, there is a larger salon (as pictured above) with additional services, such as hair coloring, and a so-called “mancave” where the guys can play pool or get a shave.

Since I arrived in London, I’ve spent a chunk of my time inside the family home, and have been really moved by the number of people who are spending much of the day there, lying down on beanbag chairs, watching all the Olympic television coverage and truly treating it as their home away from home. Many of these families don’t have tickets to Olympic events and might not have the money to cover the expenses of meals in London (P&G provides 600 to 800 meals for free each day.) More than 500 people celebrated here on Friday night alone, watching the Opening Ceremony together since they didn’t have tickets to the event.

Lowering anxieties is another end result. “Normally, I would be getting very nervous now, but I’m not,” said Ike Lochte, mom of newly crowned gold medal champ Ryan Lochte, during an interview at the family home. “We talk so much together and we’re here to support each other… this is wonderful.”

The family home is part of P&G’s goal, after Vancouver, to “become the best Olympic partner the movement has ever had,” said Pritchard. To do that, the company is also supporting more athletes with more brands, which means more sponsorships to help athletes financially as they compete against athletes from parts of the world where the government finances their training. P&G is also providing $500,000 to support youth programs around the country for kids who don’t have access to sports.

Helping Team USA is gratifying for P&G and its employees but it’s also good for business. “We make great brands, and then when (consumers) find that they are supporting athletes and that P&G is behind that brand, they feel better about the company,” said Pritchard. “In many cases, it’s a tie breaker and we see, we have evidence that indicates that… we have higher favorability ratings that occur as a result of what we are doing here.”

Something more companies might want to realize -- doing good things for people and doing them well can also build your business.

Kelly Wallace is chief correspondent of iVillage and is in London covering the Olympics.  Follow Kelly's daily blogs and reports on the Games here and follow her Olympic tweets on Twitter (@kellywallacetv.)

The cost of Kelly Wallace’s travel to London and accommodation was paid by Procter & Gamble.

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