Adidas became part of history this summer. Britain’s most successful Olympics athletes in 104 years had Adidas written all over them as the German sportswear company’s logo became part of the iconography of the London 2012 Games.
The brand, a tier-one sponsor that paid £100 million for the privilege, was the most-talked-about during the Games. And it achieved this with the broadest, most-hard-working marketing of the event.
Enlisting a world-renowned British fashion designer to create the Team GB kit was one of the brand’s first coups; Stella McCartney’s involvement helped propel PR before the Games. The "take the stage" campaign, which went way beyond the ubiquitous athlete-studded billboards and TV spots, kept the momentum going throughout.
And the brand didn’t limit its activity to the stars of the show. In the run-up to the Games, it invited ordinary young people from each of London’s boroughs to participate in online documentaries, telling their unique stories. Adidas also installed multi-sport outdoor venues across the UK, called "adizones", to encourage people to participate in sport.
Adidas looked like it was having as much fun as the rest of us during London 2012, with events such as a star-studded Olympics party featuring a performance by The Stone Roses. There was also an Adidas photo booth where off-duty athletes and the general public could strike a pose dressed in the brand’s gear, providing sought-after content for an Olympic-obsessed media. In a clever twist, the brand got David Beckham to walk in on unsuspecting members of the public in the booth, with the footage of the surprise encounters achieving 3.2 million views on YouTube.
The tone of the brand’s biggest-ever campaign, "take the stage", was set by some glossy TV spots and outdoor ads that appeared to adorn every bus and billboard. The first stage of the TV work, by Sid Lee, kicked off in April with a lighthearted spot that put Victoria Pendleton, Louis Smith and Tom Daley in the unlikely company of the TV comedian Keith Lemon. This was followed by more dramatically intense work, also by Sid Lee, fronted by Olympics stars including Jessica Ennis, and supported by a dedicated hashtag, #takethestage, a website and a torrent of digital outpourings swamping Facebook and Twitter.
The Adidas "Don’t Stop Me Now" video, showing the athletes letting their hair down and playing air guitar, might have had its toe-curling moments but, nonetheless, notched up 1.7 million views on YouTube. And, in total, the brand’s "take the stage" content got more than eight million views on YouTube. Digital activity, including Beckham’s first-ever
Twitter appearance on the brand’s Twitter channel, achieved a 32 per cent share-of-voice through the Games and boosted @adidasuk’s following by 20,000.
But Adidas’ creativity peaked with its beautifully illustrated Metro coverwraps. The 17 covers, by Sid Lee and The Church of London, were a series of original portraits of Team GB athletes. Each illustration showcased a different artistic style while referencing the personal journey of each athlete. Gold medalists, including Bradley Wiggins, Ennis and Sir Chris Hoy, were depicted by acclaimed illustrators such as Noma Bar, Ian Wright and Tavis Coburn.
Adidas fans were also invited to show their own creativity when the Games finished. People were asked online to pick their best moment of the Games, which the manufacturer then used as inspiration to customise 41 pairs of red Adidas shoes, turning its trainers into souvenirs of an unforgettable summer.
Adidas invested in London 2012 with a sponsorship that was so far-reaching it transcended the brand’s own marketing and achieved incredible results. The brand’s Oxford Street store had more sales in one week during the Games than any other Adidas store ever. In terms of its marketing performance throughout one of the biggest, most-successful sporting events this country has ever seen, the stage was taken by one brand. Adidas can take a bow.
Procter & Gamble
The British people may have been inordinately proud of the performance of Team GB this year, but no-one was more proud of the athletes than their mothers. Procter & Gamble built on its mother-orientated approach to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and put an Olympic twist on its "proud sponsor of mums" campaign, with some powerful work by Wieden & Kennedy Portland.
The emotionally touching, beautifully shot TV spot "best job" was greeted with much acclaim and stood out from the many other advertisers that had gone down much more predictable routes. The campaign ran in more than 100 countries. P&G says the entire campaign, which included online content featuring athletes and their mums, led to $500 million in global incremental sales and more than 74 million global views.
In addition, the London 2012 Olympics official sponsor wasted no time in signing up a slew of top athletes to star in ads for its individual brands, which bombarded airtime throughout the summer. These included Pendleton for Pantene, Ennis as the face of Olay, Michael Phelps and Mark Cavendish for Head & Shoulders and Hoy for Gillette. The ads for the individual brands were not only effective at connecting these brands with the Olympics and high-performance athletes, but also in matching the brands up with their parent company in the minds of consumers.
This summer, P&G also increased its global sports funding by $20 million over the next ten years as part of its "thank you mum" activity, with the aim of funding sports facilities and training so that children get the chance to practise sport. The global FMCG giant deserves plaudits for being brave, moving on creatively and, importantly, putting its money where its messaging is.
Nike tried to undercut its rival (and official Olympic sponsor) Adidas at every opportunity. In creative terms, the sports brand that did not sponsor the Games occasionally won out, especially with its "find your greatness" work and the Nike Volt shoes worn by so many athletes. The global TV and outdoor campaign aimed to show that achieving greatness isn’t the sole preserve of athletes and ordinary people playing sport can be just as inspiring. In addition, Nike’s brilliant "jogger" spot, by Wieden & Kennedy Portland, captivated viewers and went viral. Meanwhile, tactical outdoor work, such as an execution celebrating Mo Farah’s double-gold-medal-winning performance, aimed to chip away at Adidas’ Olympic dominance.
Outside the Games, a highlight of Nike’s year was picking up a Grand Prix at Cannes for its FuelBand, an ingenious plastic bracelet that tracks the wearer’s daily fitness. The interactive "#makeitcount" campaign, starring some of the world’s best footballers, was a big hit with fans and clocked up more than 35 million views. Dithering over dropping the cyclist Lance Armstong as a brand ambassador was a lowlight but, overall, Nike had another year to be proud of.
Recent winners: Stella Artois (2011); John Lewis Partnership (2010); COI (2009); Transport for London (2008); Heinz (2007)