By Barry Janoff
May 29, 2012: Gillette has been associated with sports for more than 100 years, using baseball mangers and players such as John McGraw and Honus Wagner in print ads as far back as 1910. Since then, Gillette athlete spokesmen have included Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Whitey Ford and more recently, Derek Jeter, Roger Federer and Tiger Woods.
In the 1940s, The Cavalcade of Sports radio program was a forerunner of The Wide World of Sports and other shows that brought consumers and fans closer to the action. The men's grooming company has also been closely aligned with boxing, college football Bowl games, the PGA Tour, Kentucky Derby, FIFA World Cup, rugby, the Gillette Cup in Cricket and Formula One racing.
In 2002, Boston-based Gillette signed a deal for the exclusive naming rights to the home stadium of the NFL's New England Patriots.
In 2005, Gillette was acquired by Procter & Gamble. Four years later, P&G signed on as a official partner of the U.S. Olympic Committee and became involved with the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. In 2010, P&G became a global partner with the International Olympic Committee via a deal that began with the 2012 Summer Games in London and runs through the 2020 Olympics.
As part of its first global Olympic activation, Gillette recently unveiled a team of 25 world-class athletes, including Roger Federer of Switzerland, world-class swimmer Ryan Lochte (pictured below) and track and field star Tyson Gay of the United States (pictured above), Lin Dan of China, Manu Ginobili of Argentina and Sir Chris Hoy of Great Britain.
Each of the athletes is the focal point of marketing and activations within their own nations or regions under Gillette's umbrella theme, "Great starts begin with Gillette."
In the U.S., Gay and Lochte's commercials, both tagged "Mind Games," show them grooming with a Gillette Olympic-golden limited-edition Fusion ProGlide, then getting off to quick starts — and eventually winning — their respective competitions. The theme plays out in different variations around the world. In Korea, for example, badminton star Lee Yong Dae is shown an a commercial doing some unique shots with a shuttlecock, including using it to knock a Fusion ProGlide off a guy's head.
Gillette is also part of P&G's global umbrella campaign, "Thank You Mom," which spotlights the mothers of Olympic team members and hopefuls.
NYSportsJournalism spoke with Mike Norton, director for external relations, male grooming at Gillette, about the challenges and rewards of Olympic activation.
NYSportsJournalism.com: How is Gillette staying true to its goals and marketing messages but still conveying to consumers that Olympics goals and marketing are special?
Mike Norton: You see a high-visibility from P&G with its corporate umbrella 'Thank You Moms,' which is the platform that has launched. But the interesting thing is that when you see all of the individual brands that make up the portfolio that are activating against the Olympics, each one has its own personality and relevancy that they are able to bring out. That has been the most exciting part of the Olympics for us.
NYSJ: What is Gillette's strategy?
MN: We really want to be relevant with guys and still meet our core business objectives though an important message, which is 'Great starts begin with Gillette.' It is a program which, if you think about it beyond the athletic side of things where the start of an event is so critical to success, more than 800 million men around the world start their day with a Gillette product. That was the key we felt we could get into that territory and be able to link our products back to something very meaningful in sports.
NYSJ: Was there a driving factor or goal in selecting these athletes?
MN: When you look at the great athletes, even in the U.S., we looked at some of the sports in which Gillette has a right to be associated. Where the product makes a difference. Where the 'great start' makes a difference. So we started aligning some things together in the way that [athletes] looked and in the way they performed.
"We looked at sports in which Gillette has a right to be associated. Where the product makes a difference. Where the 'great start' makes a difference."
NYSJ: Looking at the roster, someone such as Roger Federer has already had a marketing relationship with Gillette. But how did you select athletes from specific nations?
MN: We have 25 athletes with whom we are working. It wasn't a decision that was made in Boston [where Gillette is based] where we said, 'Hey, let's go out and get these athletes.' We work closely with our regions. One thing about the Olympics is that it is so beloved by each country. So we really wanted to allow each country to be able to select the athlete or athletes with whom they wanted to associate. You'll see Andriy Govorov, a great swimmer from the Ukraine and soccer star Paulo Ganso from Brazil. Each country was able to select the person whom they felt was most relevant to their program.
NYSJ: How did you decide to work with Tyson Gay and Ryan Lochte in the U.S.?
MN: We talked about track and field, which is a marquee event. The sprinters and the short-distance guys are great athletes to talk about and to see the way they perform. That and swimming became two areas that, when we looked internally, were great Olympic events in which we felt Gillette should participate.
NYSJ: Will the marketing be specific to each athlete's respective nation?
MN: Someone such as Roger Federer has complete global appeal and is thought of on a different level than most athletes on the planet. But each of the athletes is very relevant in their regions. So you won't see [badminton player] Lin Dan from China, for example, in U.S. advertising, but you will see him in China. These guys are heroes and champions within their respective country. So there is much more of a local affinity with these athletes, which is how we approached marketing and activation. There are places where they come together as a team, such as on the Gillette Web site, which is much more global. But other than that, the individual athletes are mainly used in local and regional marketing.
NYSJ: Gillette has a history of sports marketing with baseball, boxing, soccer, football and others. What is unique about, and what are the challenges of doing, sports marketing for the Olympics?
MN: The main challenge with the Olympics is getting the timing right. There is so much that goes on before the Olympics. During the Games there are a lot of restrictions as to how you can market and what you can do. So a lot of the work for the Olympics is done up front. There is a sweet spot that you have to hit. Consumer awareness starts to build at a certain point. If you are way out in front, people haven't quite started to focus on the Olympics. In the U.S., they literally might be focused on everything from the Super Bowl to the start of the baseball and Nascar seasons. There are lot of sports that call for their attention.
NYSJ: How can you tell when consumers are ready to listen to Olympic ads and messages?
MN: If you follow NBC's lead, you see where they are starting to build. Now you see more and more banners about the Olympics, TV commercials that focus on their coverage of the Games to raise awareness. So what we wanted to do was make sure we had communication and timing just right when our gold Fusion ProGlide was hitting the stores and start to get people excited about an event that was still five-to-six months away.
NYSJ: Are you able to tell yet whether or not Gillette's message is getting through?
MN: One of the things we see on the digital platform through Facebook and Twitter is the way that Ryan and Tyson have been very active. They have loyal fan bases. So that has given Gillette a great connection point. We have been able to work with those fan bases to amplify what we have been doing.
NYSJ: What has Gillette learned from marketing to support its association with FIFA and the World Cup, which may be the only other global sports event to compare with the Olympics, that you are using in marketing for the Summer Games?
MN: The biggest elements were the local relevancy and the local excitement. As exciting as the World Cup is as a global platform, where you see the real passion from people is for their national team and how that grows. When we looked at World Cup advertising and activation, our local programs were really the drivers of those programs. People may know what the end goal is, but they feel the affinity toward the athletes and the teams in their area. That would be the biggest aspect we brought into marketing and activation for the Olympics.
NYSJ: How is Gillette trying to cut through the clutter of marketing from so many other brands that are tied to the Olympics, and even separate marketing from the dozen or so brands just at P&G that are seeking to reach consumers through the Summer Games?
MN: Actually, there is still a lot to be played out between now and the Olympics. Our No. 1 goal is to make sure that consumers identify Gillette with the athletes with whom we are working. The scale of the athletes in the program is something that is different from what a lot of other brands have. We are building programs in each of the countries that they own and which in turn separate us from other brands. So, for example, we have shaving demonstrations in Korea with badminton star Lee Yong Dae or in France with champion swimmer Alain Bernard. We are taking each of these assets and making sure that we place them correctly in order to stand out from what all the other brands are doing.
NYSJ: What about marketing and activation as the Games get even closer?
MN: There is going to be a lot of Olympic-related activity and it is going to come very quickly as we get closer to the Games. What we try to do is make sure that every aspect — from the look of the razors and the look of the products on shelves at retail back through the public relations activity that is is different and it does give us an opportunity to get noticed and to connect with guys.
"The main challenge with the Olympics is getting the timing right. There is a sweet spot that you have to hit. Consumer awareness starts to build at a certain point."
NYSJ: All of the athletes on the Gillette team are men, which plays well to Gillette's consumer demographics. But the TV viewership of the Olympics is about 55%-45% female to male, and in many cases it is the women who are the purchasing influencers in the family. Do you have any marketing targeting them?
MN: We do know that, but our ads are aimed at a male audience. Women certainly are influencers when it comes to purchases. But for the most part, the connection points we are looking for is with guys.
NYSJ: What are you looking at on the the ground in London as far as marketing support?
MN: The athletes will be visible in marketing messages. Liam Tancock (swimming) and Sir Chris Hoy (cycling) are great athletes from Great Britain who are part of the Gillette roster. So we have been using them in marketing. However, one thing that all brands find is that by the time their athlete spokespersons get to the Olympic city, London in this case, they are focused on the competition and the Games themselves. They will be in a lockdown, full-training mode. So a lot of the marketing and activation has already been put in place. You may see some visibility of the athletes in London, but their time is so compressed that there isn't a lot we are planning to do with them in person. But you will see TV, print, outdoor and our Internet and social media aspects, which already have been created.
NYSJ: How does Gillette plan to keep its message fresh with consumers post-Olympics and possibly through the P&G alliance with the Olympics through 2020?
MN: From a corporate standpoint we have a lot of projects on-going. We talked about the Youth Games and the Paralympic Games. One thing about the Olympic property is that it is so wide-reaching that you have numerous opportunities in which to activate on a consistent basis throughout the year. So you don't have to wait four years for the Summer Games for something big to come up again. And he 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia are right around the corner. So there are some great pillars with which we all will be involved.
Q&A: Jodi Allen - P&G Good As Gold For London
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