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Olympic Advertising: Going For Marketing Gold

by Chris Groh

Now that the Olympics are over, most of the athletes have returned home to victorious and lucrative marketing deals, quietly retired, or retreated into their isolated sports holes to begin preparing for a re-appearance in 2016. Because the Games only happen once every four years, companies around the world invest big money to develop and implement innovative advertising campaigns to cash in on Olympic excitement. In fact, before the Games even started, NBC announced that it had sold more than $1 billion in advertising sales.1 Here at BBR, we were on an Olympic high as soon as the Queen and 007 jumped from her helicopter. While there were a lot of great memories from this year’s Olympics, we wouldn’t be ourselves if we didn’t pay as much attention to the Olympic advertising efforts as the actual sporting events. Here are our votes for the best marketing tactics and campaigns for the 2012 London Olympics.

Photo Finish:

While NBC didn’t create any positive feedback by delaying broadcasts of main events to prime-time, a few companies took advantage of this delay to create commercials that featured some pivotal feats. Two companies executing this tactic perfectly were AT&T and Visa. Following a prime-time showing of a gold medal race or new world record, these two companies broadcast commercials capturing the award-winning moments viewers had just witnessed.

AT&T Rethink Possible

Ryan Lochte’s 100M 2012 Olympic Swim
For more information on how AT&T accomplished their 24-Hour Olympic Challenge, click here.

Visa Olympics London 2012: Michael Phelps Team Visa Athlete Congratulatory Commercial

“Call Me” Viral:

As if we needed any other reason to cheer for the US Olympic Swim Team, they put out a video that not only made us laugh, but also embedded them deeper into our hearts. This year’s best Olympic viral video had to have been the team’s rendition of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” video. This trend started months ago with the Harvard Baseball team lip-syncing and car-dancing while on the road to an away game – their video accumulated over 15 million views.2 While the US team’s video has garnered “only” just over 6.3 million views, they’ve had mentions on every major news network, in addition to starting news articles, blogs, etc. dedicated to this endearing video.3

Call Me Maybe – 2012 USA Olympic Swimming Team:

The Newest Prep Time Trend:

Ambush marketing/product placement is nothing new to the Olympics; in fact Nike has been strategically placing their shoes on Olympic runners for years. (Anyone notice the bright yellow cleats this year? Not an accident.) This year’s best ambush marketer for the 2012 London Olympics goes to a newcomer — Beats by Dr. Dre headphones. These headphones were showing up on athletes all over the games, most noticeably on the swimmers. Apart from having internationally recognized athletes model their product, what made their marketing effort really great was the press attention they got once the headphones started showing up. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is infamous for their efforts to squash “unofficial sponsors,” of the Games, preventing any athlete from tweeting about their personal sponsors, even blacking out the name of the toilet paper dispensers in the Olympic village. Dr. Dre’s Beats headphones company was able to elude their policing efforts and even receive the IOC’s consent.4

Inspiring the Non-Olympians:

It didn’t take us long to open up our hearts to Nike’s “Find Your Greatness” kid. This campaign was amazing in its ability to personally motivate viewers as well as open discussion afterward. It inspired us both in the office, and we suspect globally, to find our inner Olympian. The commercials, along with the YouTube videos, showcase a perfect marriage between traditional marketing with social media.

To see all of Nike’s “Find Your Greatness” videos, click here.

Gold Medal Campaign:

The best Olympic overall marketing gold goes to Procter & Gamble for their heart-melting, brand-integrated marketing campaign that combined traditional and social media. This campaign started over a year ago with a video that focused on their target audience, moms. It included Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and countless watercooler/breakroom conversations. Before the Olympics, these videos were pushed out via social media and then replayed during the Olympics as commercials. They gradually increased their target from general moms to everyone who had a mom (e.g. the entire population,) making us appreciate the sacrifices our own mothers made. The company featured real world situations along with P&G products, without any cheesy music or theme songs.  The campaign continued with pictures, interviews and short clips of mothers of Olympians and their reactions to their children’s medal-winning performances. Who can resist the warm fuzzies created by the image of a supportive and loving mother being justly rewarded?

To see P&G’s complete “Thank You, Mom” campaign, click here.

It’ll be interesting to see how advertising evolves in the next 4 years and to see the creative genius that emerges from the 2016 Olympics, both on and off the field. What was your favorite Olympics advertising campaign? Leave a comment and let us know!

1 NBC Tops $1 billion in Olympics ad sales 
2 Baseball Team’s “Call Me Maybe” Lip-Sync Video Goes Viral 
“Havard Baseball Call Me Maybe Cover”
3 “Call Me Maybe” – 2012 USA Olympic Swimming Team
Tuning Out Olympic Edict

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