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Being There

Posted on August 21, 2012 and read 2,165 times

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pierno Being ThereAdam Pierno
Creative Director
Partners + Napier, Atlanta
Hunting the Spark

So, you’re one of the privileged few global brands able to make sense of officially sponsoring the Olympics. Yay. Coca-Cola, Atos, McDonald’s, UPS to name a few of the very few. You are lucky enough to have the budget and the scale to participate in the one global event. You have an army of people working to prepare for years leading up to the games. Years.

In some cases, this adds up to a series of ads surrounding the event locally. For some, it means strips of logos on the field of competition.

After hearing the beating of the engagement drum for the past 10 years, we should all be surprised that so many of these few brands stood pat with TV buys, or being content to display a few dozen logos around a competition. Competitors to some of these brands waged counter campaigns around and alongside the Olympics coverage to steal a bit of thunder. Nike’s celebration of everyday athletes got a ton of attention, despite Nike not being an official sponsor. And during the Track and Field finals, a very unscientific poll of my 3 Twitter feeds showed a much higher percentage of mentions of the Nike neon shoes than any I saw for paid-sponsor Adidas during the entire course of the games.

Whether you believe in engagement or whether you think it’s a tired buzzword, you’ll agree that brands need to do more than place logos around the basketball court. Sure that’s a brand reminder, and on some media impressions chart somewhere, that counts as a notch. But no one remembers it. No one talks about it. No one tweets about it. And no one connects it to anything greater. Seeing a bank logo behind the soccer players doesn’t make me relate that brand to excellence, or determination, or passion. Maybe if I’m really working hard at it, I can relate it to one of the precious metals with which the winning players are rewarded.

This is not to say that social media buzz is the yardstick for success. By some counts, including the Wall Street Journal the recipient of the most buzz was The Spice Girls who reunited to participate in the closing ceremonies. And I understand the Adidas work was well done, and aimed decidedly at the host audience, not necessarily at me. I wouldn’t say it didn’t achieve its goals, but I would question whether it was necessary to pay for the sponsorship rights to get there.

The reason Nike was successful in these games, though not technically being in these games, was they gave people smart things that they could build their own stories on, attach their own meaning to. I don’t know the story I can create by seeing a Visa logo behind the bench of a tennis match. But I can draw a few conclusions from those neon shoes. Or I am interested enough to ask if anyone else out there has any conclusions on them.

This is because Nike has been consistently giving us chapters of a very well crafted story about how the brand relates to us. Maybe it’s because they were not an official sponsor, but Nike’s work around the Olympics didn’t feel like a one-off campaign. It felt like a part of something bigger.

Other brands got this as well. Official sponsor P&G continued to build on the theme of mother’s pride and influence, which began in earnest at the Vancouver games, and will certainly continue when the London games are long over. The work was emotional, riveting. Did their products suddenly become somehow more emotionally engaging? No. They served up truly emotional work because the context allowed it and they took advantage of that with compelling stories. And sure the work is a change in continuity from some of their day-to-day pieces, but it ties in to the greater meaning behind the brand.

As with the Superbowl, many brands think just being there is enough. Viewers are going to see us up on the podium near these medals, near these other global brands, near the curiosity of the opening ceremonies, and they’re going to get that we are a huge deal. And many brands treat the sponsorship or a campaign around this type of mega-event as a special edition to their brand, in lieu of plotting out how their voice should be translated in this spectacle, how this chapter ties in to the larger brand story, and how they’ll carry on when the games are over.




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