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Gold-Winning Brands at the Olympics

Right after Usain Bolt finished his second record-breaking race, he took off his track shoes and kissed them. Photographers jockeyed for position, they zoomed their lenses in close. Millions were watching around the world. It was as if an expert in product-placements had scripted it… because there, on the side of those gold-colored shoes, was the Puma stripe. A gold medal goes to Puma!


Puma gets a golden kiss from Usain Bolt. Photo: AP

What other brands won gold at the 2008 Olympic games?

Michael Phelps: Of course! The brand that is (and will be) Michael Phelps won gold for sure. There’s no need to comment on it. Hopefully he will reap the dividends due. He’s already landed a book deal for $1.6 million (according to the Detroit News).

Mrs. Phelps: She has landed a deal with Chico’s, a woman’s clothing chain. They already have a line of woman’s clothes called The Debbie Phelps Collection. Wow, Mrs. Phelps is a fast dresser!  I’m also going to give a gold metal to Chico’s –- Usain Bolt doesn’t move as fast as they do.

Speedo: Also riding the Phelps wave was the bathing suit brand. It will be interesting to see if Speedo can afford to hang onto Phelps in the 2012 Olympics. Nike would love to get their hands on the Phelps Phans, and Nike more money than God (and Speedo, too).  I saw AdAge report that 90% of this year’s swimming metals were earned in Speedo suits.

Natacha Pisarenko/The Associated Press)

Elastic therapeutic tape from Kinesio USA (photo: Natacha Pisarenko/The Associated Press)

Kinesio USA: Ever heard of that company?  Me neither.  But this US company makes the tape worn by Kerri Walsh, the tall US woman’s beach volleyball player. It’s elastic therapeutic tape. Kinesio’s website had been getting around 750 hits per day. The morning after the black tape appeared on Walsh’s shoulder and it was explained by the TV announcer during prime time, Kinesio USA had 1,600 online orders (according to Forbes). The NYTimes reports that Walsh doesn’t have an endorsement deal with Kinesio USA; they donated 50,000 rolls of the tape to 58 countries for use at the Olympic games. I smell a deal in the works!

China Tourism: After all of the bad press leading up to the games, once the games began, China capitalized on the world’s attention. It’s amazing what a country can achieve from only “volunteers” (all 1.3 billion of them).

Polo: The official outfitters of the US Olympic Team. Their outfits for the Opening Ceremonies were OK, but the size of the Polo logo is what earns them a gold metal.

Visa: They bought a lot of TV time, and they had a good rotation of different spots. Most of them told inspiring Olympic tales past and present. Morgan Freeman’s VO was wonderful. The spots reminded me of the terrible “Up Close And Personal” profiles from Jim McKay of past Olympics. The only difference was that Visa did a great job. My favorite spot showed a runner pulling up in the middle of a race, his leg in obvious pain. His dad came on the track to help him walk and finish the race. The VO says, “Derek Redmond didn’t finish first in the 1992 400 meters…. He, and his father, finished dead last. But he, and his father, finished. Visa. Proud sponsor of the Olympic Games and the only card accepted there.”  Nice work, Visa. Great tagline, too! Also, hats off to Visa for running an ad congratulating Phelps immediately after his record-breaking swim. I think Michael was still in the water when the ad ran.

Coke: I expected more from Coke. But, there were a couple bright spots in their effort. They did a nice job to continue to position Coke as the world’s soft drink. Coke has forever been America’s soft drink, and this repositioning isn’t an easy thing. Coke has been doing it for a while, and they continued to push the idea further. Another highlight from Coke is the spot that shows medal winners from the past including athletes in the Special Olympics. Coke wins gold for the moment the music rises to a nice crescendo and we see a Special Olympian rejoicing in winning a medal. His face is priceless. Nice work, Coke!

Lenovo: They make computers, but they aren’t a powerhouse brand. However, every time NBC took us “back to Bob Costas in the studio,” there sat a Lenovo laptop on his anchor desk. It was the only thing on his desk. How do I know it was a Lenovo laptop? Because on the back of the laptop, facing the camera, was a logo that was about 13-inches wide. It was huge. Lenovo went from a brand that wasn’t top of mind to being placed in the same context as powerhouse brands like Coke, McDonalds, and Nike. Good going!  The 30-second spot that Lenovo ran during the Olympics had a strong strategy and it was visually compelling. The concept focused on the light weight of their ThinkPad. Maybe Sumo wrestlers aren’t just right for the Beijing Olympics. I often thought the ad was for United Airlines (who also had some beautiful ads running).

McDonalds (honorable mention):  Overall, McD’s Olympic effort was lackluster. However, there was one nice spot. It is the ad with the kids’ soccer game. The team that won the game received a huge trophy. They were happy until the team that lost received Happy Meals. Simple story line, etc. It is a captivating, well-produced spot.  The other spots from McD were lame and will probably show up on a posting about the advertising losers from this year’s games.

Please note, the real winners of these games are the huge brands that were official sponsors of the games. They might not have made a big impact with US consumers, but they will surely make big gains from the Chinese market. For Nike, Adidas, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald’s, GE, and Coke, the Olympics as part of a long-term marketing campaign in China… and that’s were the money is anyway.

Congratulations to all of the winners.




2 Responses

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