Branding Champions: P&G’s Winning Sponsorship of the 2012 Olympic Games

By Michelle Adelson, Chief Brand Officer, The Phelps Group

Corporations invest millions of marketing dollars in sponsorships in an effort to impact awareness and brand perception. A prime example is how brands hope to win glory and consumer affinity with the Olympic Games. However, to drive maximum return for such sponsorships, companies must connect their brand to the sponsorship in a relevant and meaningful way. So how exactly do you do that?

Proctor and Gamble’s sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games highlights the best practices of integrating a brand with a sponsorship partner.

Consistent Messaging

P&G began with a consistent message that ties to the overarching brand and aligns with each of its product groups while emotionally connecting to the core audience of moms (or “mums,” as they say in London). From there, an integrated campaign was developed and rolled out through TV, spread virally by consumers, reinforced at point-of-purchase in retail and in the end, realized through corporate social responsibility. The result is a truly aligned campaign that is consistent, recurrent at each touch point and most importantly, credibly ties into P&G’s brand DNA.

The campaign story includes 28 athletes from Team USA and breathes new life into the company’s longstanding position that has transcended generations to support moms for the past 175 years. The creative platform reinforces P&G’s banner philosophy as a Proud Sponsor of Moms and expands it to include not only the mothers of Olympic athletes, but those around the world and in the future. “Thank You, Mom” acknowledges the critical contribution of the mothers of athletes and celebrates their enduring efforts to raise young Olympians. The campaign is a continuation of one P&G first launched for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games, with plans to run through 2020. Since it was first unveiled, P&G’s sponsorship has evolved to a larger involvement with more athletes, deeper alignment with its brand promise and further assimilation into its portfolio products.

Brand Alignment

Looking at the brand platform, the recognizable identity that mirrors an Olympic medal is prevalent and consistent across all consumer touch points, providing an evocative iconic representation that allows consumers to connect with a now familiar symbol. Drilling deeper into the product lines, the message prevails as the overarching brand communication. Since many of P&G’s multi-product consumers share a common admiration as having mothers or being mothers themselves, the “Thank You, Mom” message traverses the product brands while connecting at the corporate level.

The Olympics are seamlessly woven into the message. P&G Beauty’s line of products including Secret® and Cover Girl® use messaging that reinforces power and confidence, common themes that resonate with women and athletes. The range continues with Duracell’s® commitment to powering devices and powering athletes through messages of motivation that will display in the Olympic stadium. P&G illuminates components of its sponsorship in a natural progression across its brands in a way that doesn’t feels forced, while staying true to each product’s offering.

The “mom” story has both a unique and emotional angle and P&G invites consumers to explore each brand’s Olympic story as it comes to life. Through a dedicated section on its website, consumers can understand how products help moms in their everyday lives. This connection links to retail where the P&G-Olympics partnership is center stage in store aisles. P&G showcases the sponsorship through impressive activations including dramatic displays, in-store demonstrations and more than 600 Olympic-themed products on shelves that provide strong visibility for P&G.

A notable example belongs to Pampers® and its limited edition Team USA printed diapers and wipes. The at-retail experience engages consumers and sparks an enduring kinship to the connected brands. The company has partnered with its top retailers to execute the installations through to the end of the Games and P&G has placed close to one million displays nationwide, the largest retail campaign in its history.

Social Media Engagement

Speaking of emotive, P&G launched the foundational component of its sponsorship, “Thank You, Mom,” around Mother’s Day with a two-minute film called “Best Job” that was shared online and via YouTube. The film profiles mothers in different countries helping their children along their collective journeys to reach the pinnacle of health, talent and athleticism at the Olympic Games while engaging in practices that require P&G products, such as washing the dishes and doing laundry. “Best Job” was repurposed into formats appropriate for television spots and viral sharing and has been viewed by almost 13 million consumers around the world. P&G further empowers consumers to share in the sentiment and thank their moms with a Facebook app that has been used to honor more than 30,000 moms and counting.

There is also a charitable component where the company commits to helping moms raise the next generation of athletes through the creation of its P&G/Team USA Youth Sports Fund. Consumers are invited to support through social engagement, donations and participation in brand programs from products such as Pampers®, Tide®, Gillette® and others.

Through its sponsorship of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, P&G has been acutely faithful to its brand promise of supporting the work and promoting respect of mothers everywhere. That’s because it:

  • cohesively connects to target audiences,
  • aligns its products,
  • and integrates the Olympic message with authenticity and eloquence.

The seamless and thoughtful implementation inspires the audience to root wholeheartedly for moms and for the awe-inspiring Olympiads we’ll watch. We feel that much more connected with P&G’s brands for the goodwill and making our lives that much easier.  

Sidebar: Tips for Leveraging Your Sponsorship

  1. Develop a brand, messaging and communications strategy that aligns core values: Connect your corporate values with the values of your sponsorship partner.
  2. Relate to your audience and connect emotionally: Sponsorships should be treated as general campaigns with creative platforms that resonate with your core audience to ensure your partnerships matter to them.
  3. Be consistent and integrate: For maximum impact, integrate one core message across all your consumer touch points to allow your message to break through and be memorable. Explore multiple channels from retail, online, social, public and community relations.


Michelle Adelson, an award-winning brand strategist with more than 20 years experience, is Chief Brand Officer at The Phelps Group, an integrated marketing communications agency where all communications speak in one voice in Santa Monica, CA.