Brands in the News

Olympics Advertising: Building the P&G Brand

6 Aug 2012  

The Olympics is entering its second week, so it is a good time to take a look at the advertising. I’ll post my thoughts on a few of the spots this week.

First up: P&G

P&G became an Olympic sponsor in 2010. This year we are seeing the company’s first big campaign.

The overall message is quite clear: P&G salutes Mom. The company is running several heart-warming spots highlighting the role of mothers. The ads are endearing and warm. I’m confident they scored well in consumer testing with moms all around the globe.


But I don’t see how the campaign is going to deliver much in the way of a financial return for P&G.

I see three potential issues.

Problem 1 is that the ads don’t provide a clear benefit. They are emotional and sweet but lack any rational reason to buy. Emotional benefits can work, of course, but there are two other issues.

Problem 2 is weak branding. You have to wait until the end of the spot to see the company behind it. The high order idea doesn’t immediately connect with the product category. Linkage seems weak.

Problem 3 is that the ads focus on both P&G and the product brands. At the end of each spot, a series of P&G brands flash by before the P&G logo appears. This is clearly an effort to connect the individual brands back to P&G. The overall impact, however, is hard to follow.

P&G is apparently very enthusiastic about the campaign. CMO Marc Pritchard told Reuters several weeks ago, “…it’s one of the highest returns on investment campaigns that we have done.” He also said it would generate $500 million in incremental sales this year.

If we believe the statement, P&G delivered incredible returns on the Olympic effort even before the event began, which would really be an accomplishment.

I suspect that what Marc actually meant to say was, “We hope it will be one of the highest returns on investment campaigns that we have ever done.”

While P&G’s spots warm the heart, I’m not certain that financial hope will come to pass.

9 Responses

  1. cyhleung says:

    Hello Professor Calkins – Do you think one of the possible reasons the way this P&G ad is structured is trying to move away from traditional marketing which is “Product Focussed” – to more “story telling” based. It taps into human emotions and bonds of people, so that when we think of our families (mom), we think products from P&G will give us / reinforces the same bond. It does go against the normal “hard sell” product advertising as it distracts from the product, but focuses more the “soft sell” emotional side of things as people love engaging and entertaining stories.

    • Tim Calkins says:

      I think the key shift is from individual brand marketing to P&G umbrella marketing. At the P&G level, the marketing message almost has to be broad and fairly general since it has to work across many different categories. This is one of the big challenges: how do you say something that will help Tide, Pampers and Olay?

      • cyhleung says:

        Hello. I agree that the shift is to the umbrella marketing level. But bar the costs consideration it takes to advertise for individual brand vs umbrella brand. If it is just based on and if it has to be specially a message for Olympics for the individual brands such as Tide / Pampers and Olay either P&G will need to:
        1) Go back to individual product and craft a story at each product level e.g. Tide washes off all the sweat from training of sports athletes but still allowing them to be a winner etc. } hence this will be still back to a product specific ad but there will be no mention of the Umbrella brand

        2) If they really have to include the 3 products together e.g. in the one ad, one option could also be on a story line of a “Diary of Housewife” – mother caring for a new born, where the mother (housewife) does not neglect her skin (Olay), cleans house laundry with tide and changes her baby’s nappies (Pampers) – however this will be an ad targeting to the audience of just Housewives.

        3) Probably the better question to ask – is why would they want a shift to marketing the Umbrella brand? And I agree marketing at the umbrella brand will mean a broader and more generic ad vs. when they have spent years marketing for the individual brands

  2. Anoosha Saran says:

    I agree that the ad has no call to action or message, but it will lead to financial gain. When I see the ads, I see that they targetted the primary buyers of their brands (the home maker who is also a mom). In my opinion, by “appreciating and endorsing” their contribution to their families, P&G is strengthening their bond with their primary target. It will create loyalty by stimulating the EQ.

  3. Rod Taylor says:

    Congratulations on being the first to actually notice the emperor’s new clothes! Forty years ago, when I first started work at P&G I asked why we didn’t do any corporate tags on our ads? My boss looked at me as if I was crazy and said ‘can you go into a store and buy a P&G?’ That in a nutshell is what’s wrong with this campaign.

    My very educated guess is that Procter spent $40 million on the rights to the Olympics and about three or four times that on dedicated media, net about $200 million. This campaign violates pretty much everything I’ve ever seen on how to advertise. The people in charge are either the smartest marketing guys in the world or they will be unemployed in six months.

    By the way, in 1984 the CEO of Beatrice, Jim Dutt, rammed a corporate themed ad message through his marketing department for the Sarajevo Winter Olympics. The campaign, titled: “Beatrice, you’ve known us all along,” dominated the Olympic TV coverage. Each ad highlighted a different trio of Beatrice brands with no benefit message or call to action.

    The campaign was a massive failure and led to the firing of Dutt and severe financial losses to the company, that led to their breakup.

  4. jananga says:

    I think Unilever is more success in building social brands. Eg:- using rural area women in advertisements.

  5. Awesome post Tim. I recently saw the ads online on Vimeo in which case P&G’s branding was evident throughout because it was on their Vimeo page. That being said, while I found the stories incredible and heartfelt, the athletes and their mothers were highly memorable where P&G was not. I appreciate your assessment that there was no linkage. That’s dead on target. I do see the advantage for existing relationships, as these could serve well to motivate current clients and deepen already existing bonds with the brand. So these ads stand to be ineffective at converting new business, while a strong asset in converting repeat business, or generating deeper channels of existing business.

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