Athletes are the stars in Rio 2016 Olympic Games and ads
Featuring athletes as food and beverage brand spokespeople is commonplace, and has even been the subject of various studies in recent years. Around the Olympics, brands get in on the action by sponsoring Olympic athletes and featuring them in their product and social marketing campaigns.
During the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, which kick off Friday, the athletes are getting more of the star treatment. For many sponsored athletes, personal stories are the focus of food and beverage ad campaigns — not necessarily the products themselves.
Chobani and Kellogg's Olympic campaigns remain aligned with company branding and are at least loosely connected with products. But by focusing on the athletes, manufacturers may offer messages that better resonate with consumers on a wider scale while subtly plugging the benefits of products like yogurt and cereal.
Chobani - #NoBadStuff
Chobani's #NoBadStuff campaign for the 2016 Olympic Games "is all about eliminating the 'bad stuff' and filling your life with positivity and goodness," Michael Gonda, vice president of corporate communications at Chobani, told Food Dive.
Chobani has been a sponsor of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee since 2012, and the company's partnership includes direct sponsoring of Team USA athletes. This year's campaign focuses on the personal stories of Chobani's roster of sponsored athletes which aim to depict the message of making positive choices and eliminating "bad stuff" from their lives.
The campaign includes a mix of TV, digital and in-store advertising, and under-the-lid quotes from sponsored athletes on a selection of Chobani products. But the Olympic campaign also manifested through a series of July product launches.
New products included Chobani Flip Whole Milk varieties, which align with the resurgence of full-fat dairy products, new flavors for the Chobani Flip and Simply 100 Crunch lines, Chobani Kids Tubes and the previously announced Chobani Meze Dips and Drink Chobani yogurt beverages.
The #NoBadStuff message resonates with the company's health-centric branding and commitment to using natural and non-GMO ingredients. Chobani's natural ingredients and the health benefits of its products remain a focal point, but the spotlight is on athletes’ personal stories rather than competitors' products. Competition may be at the heart of the Olympic games, but by highlighting Team USA athletes, Chobani is tapping into stories that may resonate better with consumers and Olympic viewers.
"Our sponsorship is also a little different from some of the others because we're a natural part of these athletes' regular diet and training — separate and apart from being a sponsor," said Gonda. "And people across the company have always loved the fact that they were making something that meant a lot to these athletes when they get on the world stage."
Kellogg’s - #GetsMeStarted
Kellogg's also chose to focus on athletes' personal stories for the brand's Olympic campaign, but it took a different approach than other brands, which tend to focus on popular Team USA athletes.
Instead, Kellogg chose a group of first-time Olympic hopefuls — "athletes whose stories are untold and potential yet to be defined" — to share "what gets them started along the journey to Rio for the 2016 Games," Andy Shripka, associate marketing director at Kellogg's, told Food Dive.
The connection between Kellogg's branding and the Olympic campaign message centers around breakfast foods and other fuel for the day ahead, a theme the brand is exploring as it works to turn around a cereal category that has struggled in recent years.
"#GetsMeStarted demonstrates what drives people to get up in the morning, what pushes them to be extraordinary, and what inspires them to uncover the possibilities of each new day," said Shripka. "We have engaged consumers around this thematic through our group of Team Kellogg's athletes, who inspire them to realize their own potential by starting each day off right with breakfast."
Kellogg has recently explored a wide range of strategies to promote cereal: removing artificial colors and flavors; focusing on better-for-you trends through its Kashi brand and partnering with Meijer to place Kellogg cereal brands in the stores’ produce section. Kellogg has also moved to demonstrate cereal’s versatility beyond breakfast by launching cereal-based snacks like Kellogg’s to Go Breakfast Mix, partnering with celebrity chefs to create various recipes that use cereal and opening the boutique breakfast café Kellogg’s NYC in Times Square.
But with this campaign, the focus is back on breakfast and morning routines and told from the perspective of world-class athletes. Past Olympic campaigns have also featured "the start of an athlete Olympic journey," Shripka said, but this year’s theme of Olympic hopefuls offers a new twist.
"This year we employed the #GetsMeStarted theme to show how the motivations that drive elite athletes can be quite similar to what motivates a working mom, or really, anyone," said Skripka. "Everyone looks up to Olympians, but seldom do we look at how much we have in common, especially at the start of our days."
New rules impact Olympic advertising
By focusing on athletes' personal stories, food and beverage brands share messages that consumers can appreciate as inspiration. But the benefits for brands extend beyond the message itself, especially when it comes to new Olympic advertising rules.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) changed advertising rules for Rio 2016, which enabled more brands outside of official Olympic sponsors to benefit from their association with the games. Athletes can now appear in generic advertising as long as it does not explicitly mention the Olympics or use any Olympic intellectual property, such as the Olympic rings and terms like "Olympics," "2016," "Rio," "games" and "gold." Before, non-sponsors' ads could not feature the Olympic athletes they sponsored.
In these two cases, Chobani and Kellogg's are official sponsors. But with other non-sponsor brands moving in with advertising that features athletes, even official sponsors had to adjust their campaign focuses to remain competitive.
Olympic sponsors in food and beverage have certainly featured athletes in the past. But with the IOC's advertising rules, athletes are the stars of not just the games themselves, but also the commercial breaks.