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Olympic Special: Laura's Word



Haddington Infant School's 1990 sack race silver medallist casts an eye over the games

Olympic Special: Laura's Word


So today London launches the world’s biggest sports day. Inexplicably, the egg-and-spoon, sack and three-legged races seem to have been missed out of the Olympic schedule, but there is enough childlike excitement and grumbling about inevitable rainclouds going round to make me feel pretty nostalgic. I was always in the painfully un-cool yellow team at primary school sports day – which is a tricky colour to pull off at any age – and have always had a bit of a soft spot for the daggy (as our aussie Account Director Peach probably wouldn’t say) underdog. Eyes are peeled for this year’s Olympics Eric the Eel or Eddie the Eagle. 
Between eyeing up the competition’s dark horses and ‘enjoying’ the male gymnastics, there is also so much Olympic-themed ad work to keep up with. Just as the planet’s finest athletes strut their stuff on the world stage, the games have been a chance for the ad industry to show off what it can do. On Monday I headed down to McCann Erikson’s London HQ for a celebration of their work on LOCOG (London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games). McCann Worldgroup has been working with the Olympics for the last four years on everything from design to brand strategy and their creative flourishes can be found in every aspect of the games.
For global brands, the trick has been to appeal to both surly locals (that’s us Londoners, this time around) and an international audience, and it’s been interesting to see how the various sponsors have handled the challenge. Adidas has opted for a non-London based agency to shine a light on multicultural London and reach out to the disaffected youth.  P&G has gone for universal themes of parenthood and aspiration with their ‘Kids’’ work from Wieden + Kennedy Portland, as have Samsung with their voiceover free TVB campaign and recruitment of David Beckham. Meanwhile McDonalds have addressed different audiences with separate campaigns – so there’s the rather touching spot from  DDB New Zealand that sees a young sports fan negotiate the time difference in order to keep up with the games on the other side of the world. 
However, despite the good work and back-slapping, this year’s Olympics also provides a cautionary tale of how over-zealous brand management can erode good will. Guidelines designed to protect the interest of sponsors have resulted in a clampdown on small business showing their support for the games – the media abounds with stories about butchers and bakers forced to take down their edible Olympic rings displays. What’s more, this week has seen a rush of campaigns from non-sponsors which embrace the letter but not the spirit of the law – including Nike’s ‘Find Your Greatness’ film that features amateur athletes in various Londons around the world. It’s certainly been a big talking point in the UK – and not just in adland – and one wonders just how this will affect official sponsors, who are not themselves responsible for the enthusiastic crackdown.
But rather than let the controversy sour the games, the unfolding drama (comedy?) is infusing this year’s Olympics with a uniquely British flavour, showcasing the country’s most notable traits: officiousness, subversion and a penchant for absurdist humour. Most of all though, with so many clients agencies, production companies, post houses, and designers producing such amazing work, the real take home message is that London 2012 looks set to be the most creative yet.
Let the games begin!
(Just because we're *so* excited, we've created an Olympics playlist on Spotify, for you to listen to while reading today's newsletter. Hate our song choices? Let us know on Facebook)
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