Adverts explained: Olympic tie-ins

The Olympics are coming to Britain! Oh have you heard already? Either way they’re about to become impossible to ignore. Advertisers have been clambering over each other to get an Olympic endorsement and the results of their efforts are starting to take over screens now. So how are Britain’s ads shoehorning in reflecting the core Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect?


EXCELLENCE: Holiday Inn are helping to run the athletes’ village at London 2012 and Shanaze Reade is 4x World BMX Champion, so that’s all fair enough. 4/5

FRIENDSHIP: Shanaze appears very much as a lone wolf in this ad. We don’t see any evidence of teamwork or global understanding. 0/5

RESPECT: Is Shanaze showing respect to Holiday Inn when she rides her bike through the corridors? Or “sneaks thirds at breakfast”? No, no she clearly isn’t. 0/5

Total: 4/15 [link]

VISA: “Flow Faster”

EXCELLENCE: Well you can’t accuse them of just jumping on the bandwagon. They’ve been on this campaign for over a year and with the main event getting closer the latest ad is an hysterical overload of London landmarks and British athletes (Usain Bolt’s been imported as the star, but we also see Louis Smith, Shanaze Reade (again), Khalid Yafai, Phillips Idowu, Aaron Cook and Stefanie Reid). Equating one of the fastest men in the world with the convenience of Visa’s new contactless card system is fair enough I suppose, but “paying for things” isn’t exactly an Olympian ideal. 3/5

FRIENDSHIP: Lots of athletes hanging out together – on the bus, at the barber’s – is a decent way of conveying “team spirit”. Sadly though, Britain’s welcome to Usain Bolt appears frosty at best: the man he races across London takes perverse glee in outsmarting him at every turn. 2/5

RESPECT: Respect for the rules and regulations of the Games is openly flouted here as Usain and the starter pistol man both turn up at the track with seconds to spare. It boggles the mind how many pre-race processes have been skipped or overlooked. If it’s any comfort, a Bolt victory in these circumstances would presumably be ruled void. 0/5

5/15 [link]


EXCELLENCE: Adidas have never made a bad advert so there’s nothing to take the piss out of here. And their product is the most relevant of all. 5/5

FRIENDSHIP: Another ad in which you can’t move for stars hanging out together, whether sporting, musical or Keith Lemon. 4/5

RESPECT: Wretch 32’s rap is all about making something of yourself. This zero-to-hero narrative is only slightly undercut when he brings millonaire’s daughter Stella McCartney into it. 3/5

Total: 12/15 [link]


EXCELLENCE: A classy piece of advertising which refrains from using the word Olympics or any athletic imagery or stars. The focus is on how BA will bring the world to London in 2012, with the commentary soundtrack left to evoke the big event. 4/5

FRIENDSHIP: Nice use of flags to suggest a closeknit global community coming together. 3/5

RESPECT: Yes, it – oh sorry I’ve dozed off. 3/5

Total: 10/15 [link]

OLAY: “Challenge what’s possible”

EXCELLENCE: On the one hand Jessica Ennis is a world champion heptathlete with an MBE for her troubles. On the other hand moisturiser is as unsporty and unachievey a product as you can imagine, despite some guff on the voiceover about how “daily discipline” is important to both. Actually I’m secretly impressed with how they’ve done that. Anyway on this evidence, the change from ‘Ulay’ to ‘Olay’ a decade ago now just seems like a cynical advance move to make their brandname sound marginally more Olympic. 2/5

FRIENDSHIP: Jessica is seen training alone in an empty stadium and only reacting to other people when the camera bulbs are flashing towards her lovely moisturised face at an evening do. 0/5

RESPECT: Well, moisturising shows some respect for your body I suppose. And, as for some reason the only video of this ad I can find is an adjunct to a Mail Online article about Jessica, if you do click through you can read for instance how Jessica confesses that she always ensures her skin is clean and moisturised, and insists that she never leaves the house without mascara and eye liner on. 2/5

Total: 4/15 [link]


  • Bronze: Visa
  • Silver: British Airways
  • Gold: Adidas

One response to “Adverts explained: Olympic tie-ins

  1. Excellent exploration of there being no “I” in “team” but there being an “a” in a..hole. Much appreciated the laugh.

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