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Why using Olympic athletes in campaigns is risky

Why using Olympic athletes in campaigns is risky Gary Bembridge
>>>Find out more about marketing and the Olympics at ad:tech London, where the BBC will be discussing Project 2012: Programming, partnering and planning live events for the Olympic torch relay and the Olympic Games. Register for free.

A series of ads using successful and popular Olympic athletes shows the the risks of using a sporting star in your ads. The importance of great casting cannot be underestimated to make an idea work and writing an ad to meet the limitations and strengths of that individual is of paramount importance.

Dame Kelly Holmes, won two Gold medals at the Sydney Olympics for the UK and became a bit of a hero. She holds a soft spot in the heart of the UK population.

So using her to endorse the importance of eating breakfast (a social message to say everyone performs better if they eat breakfast), and then saying Kellogg's cereals are great must have seemed like a good idea.

I am sure she must have been a costly sign-up. But a great athlete is a great athlete. They are not automatically a great performer and actor. So, in my view and many others based on comments, is that her acting is cardboard and uncomfortable. It distracts from the message, as you focus on the acting. It is less compelling.

It just goes to show how important casting is to make an idea work and credible. Or, if you really want to use a great Olympian to endorse your product understand them and their acting constraints and write to their strengths and weaknesses.

Dame Kelly Holmes: Skip breakfast and you may miss out on fuel for your brain

Take these more recent examples of using an Olympian athlete:

Tom Daley: UK Olympian diver
Nestle: Get set Go Free Activities using UK Diver Tom Daley

Tom is cheeky and friendly. But this ad again distracts as they have him trying to perform a highly complex acting and interactive move. Something even experienced actors would struggle with. You focus on his actions, not the message.

Adidas Tom Daley: Take the stage

However, Adidas (who probably understand sportsmen better and their strengths and weaknesses) created an ad for London 2012 which uses his life story, which is well known on how he lost his Dad and dedicates his sport to his memory, and focuses on the diving without acting and a voice over. It works so much better as the acting does not distract from any message.

Gillette also understood better how to use their Olympian: Sir Chris Hoy Sir Chris Hoy endorses Gillette. He is Scottish with an accent, and is a charming but fairly serious guy when you safe him in media. So they show him competing and using the product, and gave him a voice over to record. This gives more flexibility and opportunity to play to his strengths. You don't focus on his performance as an actor - but the message more.

Gary Bembridge is a marketing consultant Marketing Consultant, blogger and podcaster with 30 years global marketing experience managing and building brands for companies like Unilever and Johnson&Johnson.

Gary Bembridge  EVP of Sales, North America CPX Interactive    As EVP of Sales for CPX Interactive, Gary is charged with recruiting and building the national sales infrastructure to support CPX’s Go-To-Market strategy for...

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