Olympics Advertising: How to Strike Gold Without Jumping through Hoops

The Olympics is a global phenomenon that captures the attention of audiences, brands and advertisers worldwide. With over three billion viewers tuning in for the 2020 Tokyo Games and similar numbers expected for the upcoming 2024 Paris Summer Olympics, brands have an exceptional opportunity to connect with a vast, diverse audience.

What makes the Olympics truly special is its ability to evoke powerful collective emotions like hope, excitement, pride, and joy across entire nations. Research from System1 and FUSE in “The Sport Dividend” confirms that whilst sports advertising reaches broad global audiences, it is particularly resonant amongst sports fans. And with such a wide variety of sports, the Olympics offers brands a unique chance to connect with many interests at once.

However, effective Olympics advertising requires careful planning—there’s no shortcut to success here. Simply tacking a partnership logo onto the end of a campaign or featuring a notable athlete doesn’t automatically propel a brand to the top of the effectiveness podium. To truly strike gold, brands need to go beyond the basics and create authentic, emotionally resonant connections that align with the spirit and values of the Olympics. Successful campaigns tell compelling stories, feature authentic characters, and create memorable experiences that leave a lasting impact.

Reaching the Gold Standard

Fortunately, there’s a wealth of past and present Olympics advertising to draw inspiration and insights from. System1’s Test Your Ad database provides valuable effectiveness data for both historical and current campaigns, evaluating their long-term impact (Star-Rating), short-term sales potential (Spike-Rating), and brand strength (Fluency Rating). In our exploration of the “Gold Standard,” we identified five key rings of effective Olympics advertising, uncovering best-practice principles and showcasing examples from past games. This treasure trove of insights serves as a guide to create impactful campaigns that resonate with broad audiences during this global sporting event. To help you achieve effectiveness gold this summer, here are three top-performing Olympic campaigns highlighted in the report, along with insights into why they lead the sports advertising game:

3. Channel 4 – “Meet the Superhumans” (London 2012 Paralympic Games)  

“Meet the Superhumans” exemplifies how brands can encapsulate the essence of the Olympics. This inspiring campaign highlights the journey of Paralympic athletes, showcasing their trials, tribulations, and ultimate triumphs. One of the standout features of the ad is its music, skilfully used to mirror the emotional shifts depicted in the narrative. Moments of tension are underscored by dramatic breaks in the melody, followed by a resurgence of spirit and rhythm, emphasising the athletes’ unwavering strength and determination to overcome challenges. It’s a truly inspiring campaign which won over the hearts of consumers and critics alike, earning several Cannes Lions and a strong 4.4 Star-Rating.

2. Toyota – “Jessica Long’s Story” (Tokyo 2020 Paralympics)  

Toyota takes a unique approach in celebrating Paralympic swimmer Jessica Long’s remarkable journey to greatness. The narrative unfolds gradually, starting with the challenges Jessica faced from childhood, then highlighting a pivotal positive shift catalysed by the love and support of her adoptive family. This ad humanises athletes by portraying relatable moments, emphasising the role of family and showcasing experiences many of us can recognise from our own lives. While Jessica’s achievements are undeniably exceptional and inspiring, the ad also underscores her relatability, forging a deeper connection between audience and athlete through emotional resonance, earning a 4.7 Star-Rating.

The International Olympic Committee launched a nostalgic and captivating campaign aimed at reigniting the spirit of the Games following their postponement due to COVID-19. This ad sends a powerful message of hope by showcasing the achievements of athletes throughout history to the present day, illustrating their perseverance through adversity and highlighting the promising future ahead. With an exceptional 5.2 Star-Rating, this campaign proves that even in challenging times, positive messaging can profoundly resonate and captivate consumers.

The Five Rings of Effectiveness

The examples and insights shared here only begin to uncover the strategies for success in the 2024 Olympics. For a deeper dive into the five rings of effectiveness, download our comprehensive report, “The Gold Standard,” linked below. Explore how top campaigns have mastered the art of Olympics advertising and discover actionable tips to elevate your brand’s presence during this global event.