One of the marketing stories in the run-up to the just-begun Winter Olympics was that sponsors were a little quieter and a little more subdued this year, unsure about how celebratory to be for an Olympics hosted by a nation with a shameful human rights record.
The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Reuters have all written stories about the marketer dilemma in recent days, and the BBC reported this week that its analysis showed a “dramatic reduction in tweets referring to the Games from the Olympics’ global sponsors—as compared to last year’s Summer Games in Tokyo.”
But the torch is lit, the Games have begun, and for the most part all of the top Canadian sponsors are in market with different ads and content—some of it just published in the past day (with new work appearing even as we worked on this piece).
The Message has already covered some campaigns, and we’re working on other stories—though there do seem to be fewer pitches and press releases about the new work. And one agency behind an ad campaign that’s been out for a couple of weeks declined to talk to us about it.
To make things easy for Olympic ad watchers, we’ve gathered as much of the Canadian Olympic work together in this post for your viewing / reviewing pleasure.
Bell Canada seems to have been the most ambitious/busy preparing for the Olympics, with a few different ideas and tactics out now. Aside from short interview-style content with a handful of Canadian Olympians and Paralympians, the telco went heavy on the humour: There are new executions that use a concept, introduced for the Tokyo Games, of Bell technicians showing up unexpectedly as athletes train, and ads that comically depict the benefits of its high-speed internet (see them here and here).
There’s also what may be the best of all the Canadian ads we looked at today. Set in Olympia 776 BC, the spot sells Bell products, but also celebrates the idea of an Olympics Games of ice and snow, and Canada’s unique ability to excel there.
This is the athleisure brand’s first Olympics as Team Canada’s official outfitter, so Lululemon will obviously have lots of product placement throughout—starting with the opening ceremony’s parade of athletes, and every medal ceremony. But there’s also a well-produced new ad that is both a love letter to Canadian values, and an artistic portrait of athletic determination.
“Together with Team Canada, we’re taking the world stage with the kind of momentum earned through years of courage, resilience, and connection,” says the introduction to the ad. “Hearts full. Heads high. We’re just getting started.” There’s a :60, but we recommend watching the extended (2:45) version below.
Canadian Tire’s campaign launched last week, using its longstanding “We all play for Canada,” positioning. There are two new ads containing short stories of kids learning life lessons through sport and play. Read our story here.
A campaign promoting RBC Training Ground, the RBC-backed elite athlete identification and development program. The campaign is constructed around four 30-second spots, each delivering a message about how powerful ideas such as RBC Training Ground have the capacity to change people’s lives. Read our story here.
The Canadian shopping mall giant calls itself the “Home of Team Canada,” and is sponsoring seven Team Canada female athletes. All of the athletes are featured in a wide-ranging video series highlighting “the women’s dedication to their sports and their optimistic personal stories of grit and determination.”
Like a number of brands, Petro-Canada is bringing back a concept it used in the summer Olympics just six months ago. “Fuelled by coaches” spotlights the essential role played by the men and women who coach the athletes competing in Beijing.
Like Bell and Cadillac Fairview, Toyota has also created interview-style content with four different Canadian athletes, though the interviews are slightly longer (2.5 minutes+). There’s also a 30-second ad that draws parallels between the training and precision of bobsledder Cynthia Appiah and Toyota’s service experts. “Like Cynthia, our Toyota trained technicians are laser focused on the details of their craft,” says Toyota. “You can feel confident that your vehicle is being serviced by the best. When it comes to technical expertise, details make the difference.” Other creative shows “Team Toyota” athletes who “bring their sports to life through courage, determination, and hard work.”
The official airline of the COC is also reviving the “Fly the Flag” Olympic positioning launched for Tokyo, including reusing the 60-second anchor ad “Rise Higher.” Read our story here.
While sharing a beer and watching the Olympics with friends is normally a perfect fit for a brewer, this isn’t a normal Olympics—with many marquee events happening while most of Canada sleeps or, at best, in early morning. Molson still found a way to connect its brand to morning routines by introducing Molson Maple Beerup, beer-infused maple syrup. Read our story here.
As the “Official Mining, Metals and Minerals Partner of the Canadian Olympic Committee,” Teck came up with a fitting way to activate its sponsorship: Commemorative rings for all Team Canada athletes competing in the Olympics. Two videos feature athletes sharing their stories about the long road to the Olympics and getting their ring.
Team Canada also has an “Official peanut butter,” and it’s Kraft. A new ad featuring speed skater Laurent Dubreuil humorously combines Kraft’s familiar wit with a dose of self-awareness: “Wait, Team Canada has an official peanut butter?” asks the narrator. “Yeah of course it does,” answers Dubreuil, who, after a typical Olympic training montage, speaks to the camera again: “Love a good montage,” he says.