Intel Enlists Michael Phelps -- and #Phelpsface -- to Sink Slow Computers

Spots Capitalize on Olympics Meme

Published On
Oct 12, 2016

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Intel has a new explanation for the famous scowling "Phelps face" from last summer's Olympics --inadequate processing power. That's the basis for a new series of ads pairing the world's fastest swimmer with the world's slowest computer, and with Jim Parsons of "Big Bang Theory" and Intel fame.

Mr. Phelps' scowl was originally captured on camera as his rival Chad le Clos of South Africa warmed up by shadow boxing in an apparent effort to distract or intimidate him before August's 200-meter butterfly competition in Rio. Mr. Phelps won anyway, and the face became a social media meme.

Intel hopes to ride some ripples from that #PhelpsFace wave in new ads from McGarryBowen breaking online this week and on TV Oct. 17 during "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" on CBS. The spots back Intel's recently launched Seventh Gen procesor.

The idea originally came during a different Olympic moment, said Intel Chief Marketing Officer Steven Fund, when Mr. Phelps was "watching himself swim, looking at the image through a very old computer. And we came up with the idea of the world's fastest swimmer on the world's slowest computer."

Intel reached out to Mr. Phelps through his agent during the games, shot the ad and related social media content shortly thereafter, and, Mr. Fund said, "Got on air I think before anyone else has done anything with him post-Olympics."

Mr. Phelps was already a fairly prolific endorser for, among others, Under Armour, Omega and (an online razor retailer he's also an investor in). Mr. Fund, himself a former global marketing director on Procter & Gamble Co.'s Gillette, saw him as a good fit for Intel as well.

The message is basically the same one Mr. Parsons has been delivering: It's time to upgrade your computer. And Mr. Parsons has been so effective, Intel had no interest in walking away from him for the new ads either.

Read more about the campaign at