Feature

Seen any good Olympics ads lately?

The Olympics are supposed to be the ultimate sporting event. Noel Bussey asks why no-one cares

In the month before a football World Cup, it's very rare to see even one ad break that doesn't have a huge football spectacular from either a sporting goods company or one of the top-tier sponsors.

However, compare this to the last few weeks, as the days have counted down towards the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, and it's a very different story; there's barely an Olympics-based ad to be seen. 

The biggest one has been Nike's "courage", and that was more a celebration of its "Just do it" line than of the Games themselves.

One main reason for this lack of investment is the consistent media coverage of the high-profile problems that have plagued the run-up to the Games, such as the often volatile protests that followed the journey of the torch - usually a celebratory event - to Beijing Olympic Stadium in China.

One industry insider says: "If you're going to make an ad for the Olympics, it has to be on a par with what's happening with the media, which is going to be very hard to do this time around. Brands just don't want to invest that money until the sport has begun."


View Nike 'courage' by Wieden & Kennedy


There has also been a tangible lack of interest from the public at large in the UK.

One agency chief says: "Who gives a fuck in this country? Not many people. There will be a ?lot of stuff going on in China but it's just not that important to us here."

There is also the fact that the summer's other big sporting event, Euro 2008, was of limited interest to most of England because of the national team's less-than-inspiring failed attempts to get there.

Stephen Woodford, the chief executive and chairman of DDB, says: "It was a bit of a lost summer sport-wise. If England had gotten to Euro 2008, then I think there'd have been more interest from the public in ?the Olympics."

There is also a lack of interest from the big British brands because they are all looking to the next Olympics in London in 2012.

However, Graham Hales, the executive director at Interbrand, still thinks it's worth it for the big companies to sponsor the event.

"It still generates huge global viewing figures, and there are always good stories and the Olympic spirit, once the Games actually start. So it is still important for big brands to be involved, even if they don't put out huge ads."

However, many believe that the top-tier sponsors need to utilise the opportunity they have paid for to not only sell their brands, but to make a difference to the lives of the people they are trying to reach.

One industry commentator says: "The punters see through backwards marketing. If the big sponsors were ploughing money into athletics camps, then advertising would be easier to swallow."

This seems to be in stark contrast to the work that LOCOG is doing in the run-up to the 2012 Games.

An insider who is working on the business says: "It's all about engaging youth, there is a massive amount of work going into ensuring that the Olympics is still being felt years after the event itself has finished.

"It's going to be so much more than a sporting event. It has a huge cultural element to it that will take the Olympic spirit beyond Greco-Roman wrestling from 1,000 years ago."