Nobody can deny that the real heroes of the Games are the athletes. The sponsors of the Games, however, undeniably make a lot of money from the success of the athletes. Yet cynicism aside, the advertising campaigns this year have ensured that everyone has been a winner.
I am sure I was not the only one who saw the Greek national team lead the other teams into the arena and wish we could do more to bring back the feel of the traditional Olympic Games – before the drugs, the fickle press, the gender determination tests and the greedy corporate element. The sponsors have a primary aim: profit increase. But haven’t this year’s ads achieved more than this? They fit the bill as far as the “inspire a generation” concept is concerned. This year’s campaigns encourage young people not only to aim for athletic achievement but also marketing mastery.
With sponsors including P&G, British Airways, and UPS it is easy to understand the difficulty some companies faced linking campaigns for their products to the theme of sport. The obvious cynical take against the giants of Coca Cola and McDonalds would be that the games would be more likely to inspire “high fat saturation” rather than a “generation”. Coca Cola tackled this problem by producing a festival styled T.V ad which featured Mark Rhonson and Katy B, two British singers, performing on a stage alongside Olympic athletes in training, representing four different nations. The song, “anywhere in the world” reminds the audience of the global power of the brand while representing the London Games as an international stage. The label only appears on the bottle of an excited teenager in the audience, further enhancing the brand’s “open happiness” theme. Their “Move to the Beat” campaign for London 2012 is far more about the excitement involved in an international event, which is then linked to the brand. The key point to make is that everyone (the brand, the Games and the consumers) benefits from this. It is a party where nobody is left off the guest list.
With a “John Lewis” Christmas ad feel, P&G decided the softer touch was appropriate. What else could be softer in a beefed-up athlete’s life than the proud cardigan wearing mother behind them? With this concept in mind the P&G “Proud Sponsor of Mum’s Campaign” hit the British heartstrings as well as the company’s target market for cleaning products. A mini Paula Radcliffe appealed to anyone with a heart and kept in-line with the ‘inspire a generation’ concept. Alongside this campaign was the “Before gold there was red, white and blue” TV ad for their American product Tide. It evoked in many two key elements essential for enjoying international sport – national sports kit and national pride. With national pride in mind which U.S. citizen could possibly disregard the final slogan – “When colours mean this much, you can only trust them to Tide.”
Arguably the most avant-garde Olympic advertising campaign seen this summer was from BA. Everywhere in the country, on tubes, billboards, and magazines the message was clear “Don’t Fly, Support Team G.B”. But how could this message possibly boost sales for an airline, a British airline? British Airways made the brave and incredible decision of telling the public not to book flights with them, to stay in the country for one of the most lucrative times of the airline calendar to support the home team. How can this ever do the airline any good? Well for a start the advertisement is memorable above all else, but most importantly it extrovertly places national pride before commercial gain for two sacred weeks. Do we not feel proud to have an airline that encourages us to stay at home and support the best athletes our country has to offer?
It is important to remember that before all the sponsorship, the shameful doping and even the fickle press the games were for one purpose only, Glory. Of course BA have not joined the green party and advertising will never be for love rather than money. However, even if this campaign only seems to be selfless, BA are still promoting an inspiring message: be proud of your country. The airline is likely to profit hugely from the Games, but with such a boost for national pride, why should we bother being cynical about that, when in fact we are all winning.