How brands leveraged Tokyo Olympics as a platform to connect with consumers

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Updated: August 14, 2021 5:20 PM

Most brands ran campaigns with multiple Olympic athletes this year

The use of the anthem is an old trick in marketers' booksThe use of the anthem is an old trick in marketers' books

Tokyo 2020 was not just about news jacking and controversial moment marketing, many brands have used the biggest stage in global sports to run some very interesting campaigns. Here is a look at how some brands have used this platform that comes once every four years.

Thums Up, Palat De

Thums Up, which has usually relied on macho men of Bollywood like Akshay Kumar and Salman Khan to pump up its brands, used real life athletes like Bajrang Punia, Manu Bhaker and Deepika Kumari in its Olympic campaign. Also, the brand moved away from its over the top daredevilry films to present the athletes in real world surroundings. The proposition of ‘Thumbs Down’ is a brave one and the athletes cocking a snook to the naysayers by upturning the soft drink bottle, is an interesting take.

The campaign release time was a little unfortunate as it happened after the infamous incident of Ronaldo removing the Coca Cola bottle from his press conference table. It did lead to chatter on the appropriateness of a sugar soda brand using athletes to promote its brand. But, all in all, an interesting campaign by the only Indian brand to be a global sponsor of the Olympics.

JSW, RuknaNahiHai

Rukna Nahi Hai is not a new campaign. In the 2016 Rio Olympics, JSW released a film with a fictional tale of a girl who just kept running without any stop, a la, Forrest Gump. They kept the same theme ‘Rukna Nahi Hai’; for Tokyo 2020 but in a very timely and relevant context. In real life, the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics and closure of training facilities led to the athletes using innovative training methods. The campaign translates this real life situation to a film where athletes are shown using every possible part of their houses – roof, courtyard, rooms, staircase as their training ground.

Full marks to JSW for continuing with their 2016 campaign with a relevant contemporary theme.

2016 film

2020 film

Anthem Films

The use of the anthem is an old trick in marketers’ books. Any major sporting occasion like a World Cup or an Olympics inspires brands to release anthems. The tricky part about the anthem is that its adoption depends a lot on how the fans and consumers take to it.

In this OIympics, two brands released very contrasting anthems. Inox released the ‘Aayega India’ anthem and BPCL put out an anthem called ‘Jeet Ka Padak’. Both the anthems are polar opposites in construction. BPCL’s film is in the form of a song, while Inox’s anthem is in the form of an eulogy with the refrain ‘Aayega India’ appearing throughout the duration of the film.

To add to this the Indian Olympic Association also released its own theme song ‘Lakshya Tera Samne Hai’ by Mohit Chauhan. While the Inox film stands out for its outstanding narration, all the three anthems seem to have not struck a chord with the Indian public.

BPCL

Inox

MPL Sports Foundation, #FanBannJaaoge

Brands from India’s storied tech start ups dominate cricket and IPL, however, they were absent from the Olympics. MPL is the only one to sign up as the principal partner of the Indian Olympics team. #FanBannJaaoge by MPL was probably the most complete campaign of the Olympics.

The proposition is a compelling one – Indian Olympic athletes lack a solid fan base unlike cricket or even global football clubs. The MPL film is like an appeal to the people of India – know us, hear our stories and you will become our fans. A simple but powerful narrative that featured Olympians like PV Sindhu, Manu Bhaker, Bhavani Devi and Bajrang Punia.

MPL went beyond the film to actually create a fan army. The act of roping in prominent sports organisations like KKR, UTT, Gokulam FC, Shillong Lajong, Real Kashmir, Goa FC and others to join in with their fans, is a very smart move. MPL said that it created a fan army of 100 million (including its gamers) to virtually cheer for the Indian team.

MPL even roped in celebrated sand artist Sudarshan Patnaik to do a fan tribute to the athletes. Towards the end of the Olympics, MPL also drew attention to their sponsorship of the Indian team to the 2022 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, by putting together a hunt for India’s Biggest Fan of the Olympic team. The prize involves an all expenses trip to watch the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

For any campaign to be memorable in the internet age, it is not just enough to create a good film, a campaign must have several legs and arms and the MPL Olympics campaign managed to pull this off brilliantly.

The one protagonist campaigns

Most brands have run campaigns with multiple Olympic athletes, two brands decided to focus on only one protagonist.

Rin’s campaign ‘Ab Waqt Hai Chamakne Ka’ had fencer Bhavani Devi as its star. The film takes its inspiration from the story that Bhavani Devi’s family pawned family jewellery to support her campaign. It cleverly plays on the gold metaphor – that gold has been pawned by her family to support her and she is paying back by bringing back a gold medal. Rin’s core proposition, that of sparkling white clothes, has also been smartly woven into the story. Fencers normally wear white. The grime and dirt on Bhavani Devi’s white fencing uniform are equated to her tireless efforts. This ultimately culminates in her winning and having her moment – Chamakne Ka Waqt.

Visa, the global sponsor of the Olympics, preferred to use their 2020 film featuring Sindhu called Tap to play with Visa. It featured multiple fans paying on behalf of Sindhu when she went shopping or to fill up fuel. While it is a year old film, it did not lose its relevance as Sindhu won her second medal at Tokyo.

 

Sony, the official Broadcaster, signed on 15 brands as their presenting, co-presenting and other sponsors. The Indian Olympic Association had 13 brands and organisations as their partner. Several more brands jumped on the Olympic bandwagon unofficially. With Neeraj Chopra, doing the impossible for India, is the tide turning towards the Olympic sports and events, only time will tell.

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