The Olympics not only shines a light on athletes engaged in competition, but also on brands competing for the attention, dollars, and loyalty of viewers watching from home.
Here are five brands that have to be pretty happy with their Olympic performances thus far:
Procter & Gamble
According to a study by Ace Metrix, a TV and video advertising analytics firm, the gold medal for corporate branding during the 2014 Olympics in Sochi goes to Procter & Gamble, which has run a wide range of adorable, heartstring-tugging ads aimed at moms. Notably, there’s the stirring “Thank You Mom: Pick Them Back Up” commercial, which features P&G brand Pampers at the beginning and snippets of athletes of all ages falling down, and which has been viewed more than 17 million times on YouTube.
The phrase “free beer” is sure to grab some attention. And when free beer is combined with a clever marketing stunt—as it was with a special Molson Canadian fridge, which only opens when a Canadian passport is scanned—then it’s all but guaranteed to be a big hit with the media. Nearly every publication, it seems, took notice of the headline-friendly beer fridge, which was placed in the Canadian’s Olympic House in Sochi, thereby ensuring Canadian athletes access to free beer whenever the need arises. The coverage runs the gamut from People magazine, to ESPN, to the Washington Post, and on to Perez Hilton, who declared that based on the special perk alone, Canada is “TOTALLY winning the entire winter games!”
Though not an official Olympic sponsor, Dos Equis and its “Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign has “crashed the Olympics” (in the words of AdAge) with a new commercial featuring winter sport athletes talking about just how amazing—and interesting!—the character created to promote the Heineken-owned beer brand truly is. No actual Olympics athletes are in the ad, and the word “Olympics” is never spoken—that would be against the rules for brands that aren’t official sponsors of the games—but viewers get the idea.
The “Most Interesting Man” campaign has gotten additional attention at the Sochi games thanks to the presence of a competitor who many are calling the real-life most interesting man in the world: Prince Hubertus von Hohenlohe. A descendant of German royalty, he is a pop star with best-selling albums in Europe, an award-winning photographer who used to pal around with Andy Warhol, and the heir to a fortune in the automotive industry. He’s also fluent in five languages, and is skiing for Mexico in the 2014 Olympics at the age of 55 as the second-oldest Winter Olympian ever. It’s unclear, however, what kind brand of beer he prefers.
XXL All Sports United
Amid the controversy over Russia’s anti-gay policies, several brands have come out loudly in support of diversity and acceptance. Chevrolet, for instance, has been airing commercials featuring gay couples to promote the Traverse crossover SUV. “While what it means to be a family hasn’t changed, what a family looks like has,” a voiceover in the ad says. “This is the new us.” Meanwhile, a Tweet from Chobani, the yogurt brand, showed a rainbow of yogurt cups stacked on top of each other and the message “Naturally Powering Everyone,” an obvious statement in support of the L.G.B.T. community. Ditto the pro-gay rainbow doodle from Google that appeared on the search engine during the first day of the Sochi games.
In Europe, it appears as if a pro-gay commercial for the Norwegian sporting goods retailer XXL is dominating the discussion. The commercial, described by Adweek as “cheesy and absurd, but also kind of incredible,” shows a series of famous Norwegian athletes kicking soccer balls and tossing Frisbees to try to get the attention of an attractive woman—a woman who winds up kissing another knockout at the end of the ad. “Whatever team you play for…XXL All Sports United,” the tag line reads.
The International Business Times called the ad the “greatest attack on Russia’s anti-gay laws.”
Yes, the yogurt brand Chobani has effectively been banned from Sochi due to difficulties regarding Russian customs policies. And yes, Chobani has gotten a little negative press via the New York Post, which reported that food banks have had a difficult time giving away the yogurt that was intended for the Sochi games but wound up being donated to the needy instead.
Overall, however, the Chobani brand has received tons more media attention thanks to the diplomatic holdup than it would have if the shipment of 5,000 cups of yogurt had proceeded as planned. The New York-based company got the benefit of a big public endorsement from Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who announced in a statement, “Chobani yogurt is safe, nutritious and delicious, and the Russian authorities should get past `nyet’ and let this prime sponsor of the U.S. Olympic team deliver their protein-packed food to our athletes and media workers.” Chobani was also able to spread the idea that America’s athletes might somehow be “off their game” since they were being deprived of their favorite yogurt brand.
What’s more, Chobani secured some good PR by donating thousands of yogurt cups to the needy in the greater New York City area. While food pantry visitors were reportedly reluctant to eat the unfamiliar yogurt at first, some were won over after giving it a taste. “I tried it and found out it was really good,” one older woman said at a food pantry in Manhattan. “The flavors are good. I like the plain, the strawberry and the blueberry.”