8 Truly Great Sochi Winter Olympic Ad Campaigns

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Now that the Super Bowl is over, it’s time for the next big ad event of the year, the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. And this year, it’s an interesting case study for a variety of reasons.

Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, both long-time Olympic sponsors, recently encountered a marketing headache unique to these Olympic Games, when gay-rights activists hijacked the brands’ social media feeds and interactive marketing campaigns to protest Russia’s anti-gay social policies. Yes, a lot is at stake in many ways.

The Olympics are big-time opportunities for the dozen-or-so brands that sign high-dollar contracts for exclusive use of the Olympics in their ad campaigns. How exclusive is that use? Well, you can no longer see the Guinness commercial that featured a pair of American twin biathletes because Budweiser, as an official sponsor of Team USA, has exclusive rights to use the likenesses of anyone from Team USA from January 30 to February 26.

So what can you expect ad-wise from the official sponsors of Team USA and the other worldwide Olympic Partners? Here’s a quick rundown:

Proctor & Gamble

Proctor & Gamble has cornered the market on mom-related Olympics ads with its “Because of Mom” campaign, which uses the Olympics to explore the universal love of a mother for her children to sell its products to everyone who gets a little choked up by P&G’s ads that are essentially short films, like “Pick Them Back Up,” which has over 13 million views on YouTube. P&G is taking this campaign to the limit with a #becauseofmom hashtag to encourage social sharing. Also: #cryfest.

BMW

German-based luxury auto maker BMW is the official car of the 2014 Winter Olympics and an official sponsor of Team USA. And not just for the product placements. BMW has teamed up with the USA Bobsled team to help design a faster bobsled and then got NBC to air a documentary about it -- therefore elevating BMW’s status from mere advertiser to becoming part of the story. That’s a marketing campaign that’s DVR-proof, and from the looks of it, it’s only the beginning of BMW’s Olympic roll-out.

Nike

It’s not often you see a Canada-themed sports ad, but Nike has found the perfect way to connect to its customers up north with an ad more about Canadian national identity than about hockey -- or maybe those are the same thing. Either way, the “Any Ice is home ice” ad is pretty great. It’s somehow one of the greatest hockey films ever made without a second of hockey ever being played.

Samsung

In partnership with Team Australia, Samsung released a two-minute short film featuring snowboarder Alex “Chumpy” Pullin and his music-producing friends. The film is chock-full of Galaxy Note 3’s as Pullin and his partner share videos, images and music in order to capture a collaborative moment between them.

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McDonalds

Despite the problems with activists invading their social media, McDonalds has actually cooked up an inventive marketing campaign for the Olympics that would suggest that the Golden Arches might be paying attention to this whole internet thing. Using the #CheersToSochi hashtag, home viewers can tweet messages that will appear on a display in the McDonald’s in the Olympic Village. If athletes see messages that are inspiring to them, they can have them printed off onto a wearable bracelet, and then the original tweeter might see his or her message on TV. That’s thinking things through.

BBC Sport

How do you get your audience excited for the Winter Olympics when your country isn’t very wintry? If you’re the BBC, you hire a bad-ass character actor from Game of Thrones and have him read an epic poem over epic shots of snow-capped mountains and close-ups of the UK Winter Olympic team. It’s an ad campaign that has united glib celeb watchers and glib sports watchers. The British men’s hockey team would ordinarily frighten no one, but after this ad, winter is coming.

Sport Chek

As the largest sporting goods retailer in Canada, Sport Chek is a brand perfectly built to leverage the Winter Olympics. And it does not disappoint with its first #whatittakes ad. Just seeing Sidney Crosby for a split second about to play hockey is enough to get any Canadian up off the sofa. With social interaction at the center of these Olympics, Sport Chek has integrated social media into the biggest ad campaign in its company history.

Team Canada

Not to be outdone by Sport Chek, Team Canada has also launched an ambitious campaign to brand itself as “We are Winter” or “Nous sommes l’hiver,” because no matter what language you say it in, everybody knows that Canada kicks ass at the Winter Olympics. It’s the largest brand undertaking in Team Canada history.