By Barry Janoff
May 14, 2012: With the 2012 Summer Olympics less than 75 days away, Procter & Gamble is ramping up activation that sees it thinking national and acting global.
P&G, which has been associated with the Olympics movement for about 75 years, signed a deal in 2009 to become an official marketing partner of the U.S. Olympic Committee. That was followed in 2010 with a deal for P&G to become a global partner of the International Olympic Committee through 2020.
P&G's first official Olympics foray came at the 2010 Winter Games. In Vancouver, marketing included a "Proud sponsor of moms" theme that was anchored by a "Thank You Mom" campaign, focusing on the mothers of U.S. Olympic athletes and hopefuls. Based on its success there — which P&G said "resulted in increased favorability ratings, greater market share and nearly $100 million in incremental sales" — the company has expanded its "Thank You Mom" campaign and its presence for the 2012 London Games. The business goal for the activation: "$500 million in incremental sales," Jon Moeller, P&G's CFO, said during a conference call earlier this year.
P&G and its brands are aligned with about 150 athletes worldwide, focused on regions where the company has a presenced. In the U.S. that includes Natalie Coughlin (Pantene, pictured), Allyson Felix (Oral Care), Tyson Gay (Gillette), Shawn Johnson (Bounty), Ryan Lochte (Gillette), Diana Lopez (Duracell) and Kerri Walsh (Pampers). In the host nation, that includes Victoria Pendleton, Mark Cavendish, Jessica Ennis, Jenna Randall, Sir Chris Hoy and Paula Radcliffe.
P&G last week unveiled an umbrella TV ad, "Best Job," which the company describes as a commercial that "honors everything that all moms do to help their children succeed by showcasing the amazing moms behind Olympic athletes at the London 2012 Olympic Games. The hardest job in the world is truly the best job in the world."
Among its social media activation, a destination at Facebook allows people to send a message to their own moms.
For London 2012, P&G has built upon two projects it utilized in Vancouver. The company said it would give each mom of the nearly 800 U.S. Olympians and Paralympians who will comprise Team USA a $1,000 Visa reward card to help offset travel costs or for use while at the Games. In London, the company will oversee the P&G Family Home, described as a "private and secure home away from home where moms of Olympians can spend time with their athletes in a relaxed, family-friendly environment." The location will, of course, be filled with P&G products.
In addition to P&G, worldwide Olympic sponsors include Acer, Atos, Coca-Cola, Dow, General Electric, McDonald's, Omega, Panasonic, P&G, Samsung and Visa.
Jodi Allen, P&G vice president for North America operations and marketing, spoke with NYSportsJournalism.com about the challenges and rewards of being a global Olympics marketing partner and what the company has learned from its alliance with the NFL.
NYSportsJournalism: How do you create marketing specifically related to the Olympics while still remaining true to the messages of your respective brands?
Jodi Allen: The 'Thank You Mom' Program, which is all about bringing our P&G brand to life, is based on the insight that behind every great athlete is an even more incredible, great mom. That is a big part of what we are doing. But at the end of the day, making sure that we are selling our brands and improving the equity of our brands is what we are all about. Every one of the brands has been able to find a unique way in, based on an insight that's relevant to their brand but that still ties back to the total P&G program. And if that allows our brands to win and P&G wins, we all win.
NYSJ: How does this strategy translate to specific P&G brands?
JA: Tide has chosen to go after a big idea, which is 'Proud Keeper of the Red, White and Blue' — and they have (track and field star) Lopez Lomong. He was the American flag bearer in the opening ceremony at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and has an incredible story. Or you have a brand such as Pampers, which has partnered with (beach volleyball icon) Kerri Walsh, the mom of two boys herself. We really have tried to support both the idea that resonants with the brand benefits as well as the athletes who are able to tell the story of that brand in a very authentic way. So we really have spent a lot of time and effort to find the right ideas as well as the right brand ambassadors.
NYSJ: The alliance with the Olympics is about uniting brands with sports, which is what P&G also has done since becoming an NFL partner in 2010. What have been the challenges and rewards of getting consumers to associate such brands as Tide, Head & Shoulders, Febreeze and Bounty with athletes and sports?
JA: My favorite work at P&G with the NFL is the Vicks program with Drew Brees. It's not an obvious kind of connection between Vicks and the NFL. But the way that we brought the idea to life is that everybody has to be at work in the morning and has to have a good night's sleep. It absolutely works in a brilliant way. Our partnership with the NFL is very strong and growing. We recently announced that Tide now has an official alliance with each of the 32 teams (only the second brand behind PepsiCo's Gatorade to have that designation). So we will be taking that association and our overall partnership with the NFL to another level for the 2012 season.
NYSJ: P&G has a vast inventory of strong brands, each with their own message. How do you get the brand managers to play nice together?
JA: The way I would say it is, at the end of the day we are all P&G employees. And having P&G win is really what it's all about. Each brand in the portfolio needs to play its part. The good news is that each of our brands has been able to see the Olympics as something that they can, in a very creative way, tell their own brand stories. So whether it's Pantene coupling with (swimmer) Natalie Coughlin to talk about beautiful hair or CoverGirl, which has partnered with with women's boxing, which will be part of the Olympics for the first time. They have a great campaign (pictured below) that brings together the idea, 'I'm tough. I'm beautiful. I'm a CoverGirl.'
"At the end of the day we are all P&G employees. And having P&G win is really what it's all about. Each brand in the portfolio needs to play its part."
NYSJ: P&G came in as an official Olympic marketing partner with the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. Even though the season and the logistics are different, what did you learn from those Games that you are taking into the London Games?
JA: At the 2010 Olympics, we learned that this universal insight — that behind every athlete is an even more incredible mom — was a powerful idea. But [because of when the deal with the USOC was signed] we started our work for Vancouver only about 80 days before the actual Games. We only had a limited time for our actual planning to bring that idea to life. Also in Vancouver, we were bringing together only Team USA. It was a USA-only event. But we realized that the power of the idea was global. So as part of the London Summer Games, and now with a deal with the IOC, we are bringing together our different programs in different countries in very big ways. It is different in the U.K. versus what we are doing in China versus what we are doing in Russia versus what we are doing in the U.S. We are leveraging 150 Olympic athletes and hopefuls. We are taking what we learned in Vancouver and amping it up, doing it in a much more global way.
NYSJ: We are in the sweet spot of marketing where more and more people will pay attention to Olympics marketing and messages, but how do you carry that past the Olympic Games?
JA: One of the things we learned through our experience at Vancouver is that the relationship with these moms of athletes goes far beyond the Games themselves. So part of the reason we are investing in our relationships with these moms is that we feel we can take it from one Olympics to the next and the next. Working with 150 athletes globally, we are going to be able to have this movement continue long beyond the 2012 Games. That is clearly our intent.
NYSJ: How do you build a campaign so that consumers, who many times see that athletes are not true to the products they endorse, believe in what P&G spokespersons are saying to them?
JA: I absolutely feel that we have gone out of our way to find athletes who tell the authentic story of the brand. It all comes down to the stories we are trying to tell. So with Shawn Johnson, we have footage of her doing Olympic gymnastics events in her living room and kitchen, knocking things over and her mom Teri needing to use Bounty to clean up the mess. We have a great Bounty anthem ("Let the spills begin") that tells the story about all the kids doing gymnastics in their homes. These are very authentic stories. They happen in real households in the U.S. Whether it's Shawn Johnson with Bounty or Lopez Lamong with Tide, I feel we have done a brilliant job of making it authentic.
NYSJ: How would you describe the synergy between P&G and the USOC?
JA: Our partnership with the USOC has been incredible. I have nothing but great things to say about it. Obviously, having to coordinate all of our brands and the USOC has some challenging logistics associated with it. But the value of the program that we have brought to life is so strong that the alliance with the USOC has been amazing.
NYSJ: What is the back story behind supporting the 'Thank You Mom' campaign with the $1,000 Visa rewards card?
JA: We asked the USOC how P&G could support and thank the moms of U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes. They came back to us by saying, ‘Help them get to London to see their children compete.' Many of these moms struggle to find the financial means to see this dream realized. Which is why P&G created the ‘Thank You, Mom’ gift, which will make it easier for the mom behind every U.S. Olympian and Paralympian on the 2012 Team to share their child’s dream. And to keep those moms connected with their athletes and families during the Olympics, we will have in London the P&G Family Home, a private and secure home away from home where moms of Olympians can spend time with their athletes in a relaxed, family-friendly environment.
NYSJ: What will P&G be doing to support the Olympics effort between now and July?
JA: We already have started campaigns for many of our brands in the U.S. as well as in London. And there will be more to come. I don't want to be specific yet because I don't want our competitors to know where we are headed. But let's just say there are far more stories to be told.
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