Olympic Marketing Earns Gold Medal in Boring

How Would You Wake Up This Snooze-Fest?

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Peter Madden Peter Madden
You would think there would be at least a remote sense of anticipation about the upcoming Olympic Games.

I've had more anticipation over what I'm having for lunch.

Not to say that NBC and other media vehicles aren't trying their hearts out. It's all just very tired and ineffective creative. It's hard to turn on the television or open a magazine without some mention. I get it: 8.08.08. But none of the marketing is inspiring me to mark my calendar to watch. Cue the Morgan Freeman voiceover as we watch cheesy slow-motion shots of athletes being awarded, competing, etc. with music that's supposed to be dramatic. Oh, the humanity.

Do you care that the Olympics are happening? Why would you? Every four years, we're forced to summon up some emotion about U.S. vs. the World. I can only wonder when they'll call the whole thing off, especially as every year the ratings for both the Winter and Summer Olympics continue to plummet like a shotput in the Atlantic.

That doesn't mean I'm not impressed with the athletic prowess of those involved in the Olympics, but really, swimming? Track and field? I think I'd rather watch curling.

I feel for the marketers though. Imagine if the "Michael Jordan" of the Olympics you had to brand and market was Michael Phelps? Just the sound of his voice is enough to lull even my sleepless 2-and-a-half-month-old to the crib. I can only assume they did numerous takes of his voiceover for the spot they keep running on NBC. And that was the best they could get? He sounds like he's still underwater.

I'm sure ol' Mike would say, "I'm a swimmer, not a seller." I couldn't agree more. So why are the marketers trying to make us care about a guy who is the opposite of compelling? If he walked away with 10 gold medals, I'd still have more interest in whether someone will ever catch that Trix rabbit.

Of course, they could always go for the sweet spot that advertisers have relied upon for years: sex. Sports Illustrated took the best-looking ladies of the bunch, and instead of referencing their respective sports, they put them in bikinis (no, I didn't write a letter of offense to the editors) and painted them up like a bad version of the Cheetah Girls. I guess the message is: "Watch them compete because you never know who might strip down to beachwear." Way to go, Team USA.

So what would you do if your agency were tapped to market these events, especially in light of the facts that a) there are no real stars outside of basketball, b) we already have access to professional sports across the globe on a daily basis, and c) they're being held in a country famous for oppression and human rights violations (I cheered when the torch bearer was harassed by Tibet supporters in San Francisco).

In the end, it's like a show that's had its run on Broadway but continues to try and sell tickets.

That being said, best of luck to the U.S. athletes. I just wish the marketers behind the Olympics did something remotely creative or authentic to make the public care. It's a shame when ratings for the Olympics can't even beat the many hack shows that continue to propagate across the airwaves.

Maybe a reality Olympics show starring Joey Fatone and David Hasselhoff as your judges?
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