NEW YORK – If a gold medal could be awarded for Olympic marketing, Procter & Gamble would surely be striving for it.
With the opening ceremony of the Olympics two weeks away, the world's largest consumer products maker on Wednesday is unveiling an ad that shows child athletes arriving in London and getting ready to compete.
In the "Kids" commercial, a proud mom watches her son on the diving board and these words are posted on the screen: "To their moms, they'll always be kids." Then, an announcer says the company's tagline: "P&G, proud sponsor of moms."
P&G is just one of the major companies that pay millions of dollars for sponsorships, ads and other marketing surrounding the Summer Olympics. It's their attempt to attach their names to the high-profile event and drive sales.
After all, the Olympics are an advertiser's paradise. The 2008 Olympics in Beijing was the most-watched event in U.S. television history: An average of 27.7 million people saw the telecast over 17 nights. Companies spent $977 million in advertising during the 2008 Olympics to reach that audience, according to Kantar Media.
P&G, which was not a sponsor in Beijing, is trying to capture those eyeballs this time around. The "Kids" ad is just a small part of the company's Olympics marketing efforts, which began in the spring.
P&G, which declined to disclose its spending on marketing, has a corporate campaign in addition to initiatives for 34 separate brands, ranging from Pampers to Duracell. Additionally, the company is sponsoring more than 150 global athletes.
"It's the largest multi-brand program we've ever done," says Marc Pritchard, global marketing and brand building officer at P&G.
P&G expects the campaign to drive $500 million in sales. That's much larger than the $100 million in sales the company garnered from its campaign at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, the first time P&G was an Olympic sponsor.
But the stakes are higher now. The 175-year-old company has some of the most well-known brands in the world, including Tide and Pampers. But it has lost ground to competitors such as Unilever.
And like many consumer product companies, P&G has been expanding internationally as growth in the U.S. and other mature markets slows. But weakness in Europe and uncertainty about the overall global economy coupled with high costs for commodities such as fuel and packaging, has led to lackluster results.
In its most recent quarter, P&G said net income fell 16 percent while its overall market share slipped 0.2 points, including a decline of 0.6 points in North America.
Now P&G is focusing on its most profitable markets, such as the U.S., Mexico, Germany and Brazil, among other countries. It's also scaling back on introducing new products in some emerging markets like China, rolling back some price increases and cutting costs.
The company, based in Cincinnati, also is counting on its Olympics campaign to drive sales in its most profitable countries. P&G worked with retailers in those markets to create multi-brand displays in stores, supported by TV and print advertising. It also plans to air the P&G corporate TV spots, including "Kids," in these countries.
"We designed the program to be global, to ensure that we would be successful in top markets," Pritchard says.
In the U.S., P&G's corporate campaign kicked off in April with its first "Thank You, Mom" TV spot. It also has a dedicated "Thank, You Mom" Facebook page and app that allows people to send "Thank you" messages to their mothers.
The company considers that campaign a success so far. It has had 19 million views of "Best Job," a short film on the Facebook page and Youtube. "Kids," which debuted on Wednesday on the company's Facebook page, will air on TV globally in coming days. It is also on the "Thank you, Mom" page, as well as Youtube.com
Many of the company's separate brands also have campaigns. For example, Pampers diaper brand rolled out an ad in April showing babies climbing a chair as if it were an Olympic sport. It is also selling limited edition U.S.A. diapers and baby wipes in the U.S.
Pantene hair products brand has named 11 Olympic athletes its "beauty ambassadors," appearing in ads. In one, Natalie Coughlin, a U.S. swimmer, says she trusts Pantene to "keep my hair beautiful."
And a campaign for Duracell batteries, tagged "Rely on Copper to go for the gold," features U.S. Taekwondo Olympians Diana and Mark Lopez.
The overall P&G "Proud sponsor of moms,' campaign "allows us to create a unifying theme under which all the brands come together," Pritchard says.
On the Web: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRaQRbAxXaA&feature=youtube.