Inspiring and moving Olympics commercials through the years
The Olympics is the world’s biggest sporting stage, watched by millions worldwide. It follows that companies across different sectors want to grab the opportunity to put their brand out there for the world to see.
Athletes are inspirational not just for their physicality but also for their determination, discipline and passion for their chosen sport that brings them to the pinnacle of their careers—participating in the Olympics.
These characteristics of athletes are what anchor some of the campaigns during the quadrennial event.
Despite the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic and a sponsor pulling out its TV ads from the games, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is set to light the cauldron on Friday, July 23.
To get you in the Olympics vibe, check out these moving and inspiring commercials through the years.
Omega, Tokyo 2020
Ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, Omega, the games’ official timekeeper since 1932, released a compelling commercial that celebrates the tradition of both the brand and the host country.
The Swiss brand tickled the spirit of Olympic competition with its campaign called “Omega meets Japan.”
In the one-minute commercial, scored with Imagine Dragons’ Dream, are seamlessly weaved split screens of athletes in action in their respective sports, and emblems of Japanese customs and traditions.
The brand also released its Seamaster timepieces to celebrate the historic event.
P&G, Rio 2016
Procter & Gamble has been consistent with its brilliant storytelling when it comes to its Olympic campaigns, including the “Thank you, Mom” series.
For the 2016 Rio Olympics, the company’s commercial titled Strong appeals to the heart. It is a tearjerker that will make you want to call your mom after watching it.
Strong, directed by Hollywood follows the journey of four mothers and their children—from their struggles at the beginning to victory in the Olympics.
“It takes someone strong to make someone strong” is the campaign’s tag line, which highlights the power of supportive mothers, who help their children overcome difficult circumstances that pave the way for them to be successful in the field that they have chosen.
P&G is known for its critically acclaimed Olympics campaigns, including Pick Them Back Up, Kids, and Best Job, which are among the most viewed Olympic games videos of all time.
Nike, London 2012
In 2012, Nike launched a worldwide campaign called “Find Your Greatness,” which coincided with the 2012 London Olympics.
The brand, which was not an official sponsor of the games, took its competitors by surprise with its campaign that featured everyday athletes who are determined to excel in their own terms, fulfill their goals and achieve their moment of greatness.
The inspirational campaign was filmed around the world, in places named “London.”
Among the subjects was a 12-year-old boy from London, Ohio in the United States named Nathan. In the ad, a “chunky” Nathan was featured in an uninterrupted long take running towards the camera as an inspiring narration about “greatness” plays.
“Greatness, it’s just something that we made up. Somehow, we’ve come to believe that greatness is a gift that comes for a chosen few. For prodigies, for superstars and the rest of us could just stand by watching. We can forget that. Greatness is not some rare DNA strand. It’s not some precious thing. Greatness is no more unique to us than breathing. We’re all capable of it. All of us.”
Virgin Media, Rio 2016
For its 2016 Rio Olympics campaign, Virgin Media tapped the world’s fastest man, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, to demonstrate speed for the company’s broadband services.
It was Bolt’s 100-meter record of an astonishing 9.58 seconds in 2009 that became the anchor of the campaign. The ad is about what it feels like to experience speed at both physical and emotional level.
The campaign told the story of the “overwhelming rush of hurt” that Bolt describes when he talks about his training, the impact of his achievement to his entire country, the Jamaican diet he grew up eating, his fondness for arcades when he was a child, and even the Jamaican dance culture that he is very much a part of.
Fans were definitely pumped for Bolt’s performance at the Rio Olympics, which did not disappoint, as he became the first athlete to win three Olympic 100m titles. With this win, he has a total of nine Olympic gold medals throughout his career (2008, 2012, 2016). He joins the ranks of American sprinter and long jumper Carl Lewis and Finnish long-distance runner Paavo Nurmi who have the same amount of gold medals, which is the joint highest among Olympic athletics.
Visa, Beijing 2008
“Go World” was Visa’s campaign for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which celebrates the human experience. The commercials feature athletes that made a mark not just for their accomplishments in their respective sports, but also for the inspiring story of their journey.
One of the featured athletes was British runner Derek Redmond, whose story was considered one of the most inspiring.
Redmond was poised to win the gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics but during the 400-meters semi-finals, he suffered a hamstring injury that brought him to the ground as his competitors zoomed past him.
This moment was the beginning of the spot, which showed footage from the event with a narration by Morgan Freeman. “Derek Redmond did not finish first in the 1992 400 meters. He didn’t finish in second, or third, or fourth,” Freeman narrates.
The commercial highlighted the iconic moment when Redmond, still in pain and in tears, stands up and starts to hobble towards the finish line with the help of his father, who ran on the track to assist him.
“He and his father finished dead last. But he and his father finished.”
With the help of his father, Redmond was able to cross the finish line, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd.
Channel 4, 2016 Rio Paralympics
The Channel 4 network in the UK churned up an empowering and inspirational commercial for the Rio Paralympics in 2016 titled “We’re the Superhumans.”
More than 160 people—rock stars, race car driver, rock climber, child with prosthetic legs, dancers—are featured together with British Paralympians in the three-minute commercial that shows their passion and motivation to succeed in their chosen field despite their physical challenges.
The commercial exudes a jovial mood, which was further highlighted by a cover of Sammy Davis Jr.’s Yes I can, performed by a band composed of musicians with disabilities.
The campaign’s message was widely praised, and it won the Film Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions 2017.