On the shoulders of Champions

September 9, 2016

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Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, and Usain Bolt weren’t the only ones who won big at the recent Olympic Games in Rio.   Advertisers who included these stellar competitors in their commercials – who perched atop those athletes’ very developed shoulders – can also claim a win.   Procter & Gamble definitely stands out in this sizeable group, with their “Proud Sponsor of Moms” campaign showing us first-time (and repeat) champions thanking their Moms for their sacrifices, their wisdom, their support. Alison Felix, Simone Biles, Ashton Eaton, and other Rio champions, helped reinforce P&G’s position as a leading producer of packaged goods.   P&G also got more vertical with their advertising, going from broad “thank you” commercials to spots that featured individual athletes and products. The Simone Biles “small is strong” was one of the product-specific spots that received a lot of air time.   Visa was back again with commercials featuring Olympic hopefuls and medal winners. So was United, who featured individual athletes as well as entire teams (rowing, synchronized swimming).   Some advertisers decided to get the jump on the actual Olympic competition by running their spots early – sometimes months early. BMW Mini’s “Labels” with Serena Williams and other Olympians, Under Armour’s “Rule Yourself” with Michael Phelps, and Gatorade’s “Never Lose the Love” with Usain Bolt are just a few examples.   With all of this championing of the champions, the question that begs to be asked is: does it help a brand?   The answer is: it definitely doesn’t hurt.   Although the spots are produced well in advance of the games, having the lightning bolt who’s known as “the fastest man in the world”, or the young woman recently dubbed “the greatest female gymnast of all time”, or the most decorated Olympian – male or female – in history, as endorsers of your product has a positive rub-off on purchase intent. In other words, the commercials might make you slow your shopping cart in the “laundry products” aisle just as you’re approaching the Tide Pods, or put thoughts of Gatorade in your head after working out, or make you consider United for your next business or pleasure trip.   What the panoply of Olympics television advertising succeeded in doing was using champion athletes to instill images of champion products and champion brands.   When all is said and done, who doesn’t love a champion?

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