Going for the Gold—and the Gals Marketers Use Athletes, Moms in Campaigns by Ayesha Mathews-Wadhwa
Americans rooting for Team USA will recognize a few of their favorite Olympic competitors in a variety of television and print advertisements that are making their way through the media. It’s no wonder that companies are considering women when they conceptualize ads for the Olympic Games—females drive about 80% of purchasing decisions in America. Over the course of the next decade, in fact, women in the U.S. will have power over about two thirds of consumer wealth.
According to research conducted by two University of Delaware professors, when American companies retain female athletes as spokespeople and focus on looks in ads, consumers aren’t buying it. The study authors believe that letting the consumer relate to the endorser (maybe by showing the working hard, so the consumer can relate) would be a better idea.
That hasn’t stopped companies from highlighting Olympic athletes. While some of this year’s ads show the competitors polished up, others skipped athletes altogether to make a connection with “real” women.
What do you think went over better?
CoverGirl highlights beach v-ball pro and boxing star
Boxer Marlen Esparza and beach volleyball player Jennifer Kessy are radiant in CoverGirl ads. Additionally, the company has created a limited edition package for LashBlast Volume and Outlast All-Day Lipcolor, which honors women competing in the 2012 Games.
One can’t help but notice how stunning the ladies look: Kessy glows on the sand holding a volleyball while Esparza takes a tough-but-sexy girl stance donned in boxing gloves. (She’s also the gal boxing in the McDonald’s television spots.) Yes, her makeup was professionally done, but real women out there like to see that they, too, can achieve an attractive look with makeup that lasts throughout their busy days.
“CoverGirl is celebrating the fact that beauty and femininity can come in so many forms. To be able to convey this to girls and women is a very good feeling,” Kessy has stated of the campaign.
Photo: Courtesy of Cover Girl
“I think it will help people see me as a woman and not just a boxer, and also show that CoverGirl recognizes that everyone can symbolize beauty,” Esparza added.
Plus, it’s nice to see athletic women in the limelight to expand the visual of beauty away from super-slim models and celebs.
Shining the spotlight on…moms
When you think about women-centric advertising, you can’t forget Procter & Gamble’s “Thank You, Mom” campaign. The ads feature cute kids portrayed as Olympic hopefuls as they grow, and make it to the Games, with proud mommies looking on. (Warning: If you haven’t seen them yet, have a box of tissues handy.) The premise of the campaign is to support mothers of Olympic athletes, and mothers everywhere—appealing to women with wallets and spending power.
Seeing mothers showing pride in their children is something that men can relate to as well. (Who doesn’t cheer on their favorite athlete as they go for the Gold, or even root for their son at Little League practice?) In this respect, the advertisements appeal to both genders because we all know what it is to feel proud of someone doing something great…at home or on a world stage.
P&G launched a website (cleverly named www.thankyoumom.com) and a Facebook page devoted to the campaign that offers a wide range of coupons—more appeal for females—on P&G products. The company also secured tickets to the Opening Ceremony for more than 60 parents of Olympians.
Individual female athletes are the faces behind several P&G products as well. Gold Medalist Kerri Walsh and her family helped promote Pampers as it launched a limited edition “USA” diapers and wipes. The ads feature Walsh along with her husband and two toddlers, showing that while she may look great in a bikini, she’s still a mother and wife like so many women out there.
Photo: Courtesy of P&G
Female athletes “head” to London for the gold
Perhaps the most stunning print ad is of swimmer Natalie Coughlin, which shows her in the water mid-stroke with her luminous, wavy hair—dry—almost bouncing on end. That, along with a series of ads—featuring other Olympians such as Great Britain’s Victoria Pendleton biking and Argentinian Gisela Dulko playing tennis—shows the ladies in action with voluminous, shiny air. The kicker? Everything is in a gold tone, from the women’s hair to their tan bodies.
The fluid lines of Mexican diver Paola Espinosa along with her sleek hair are especially a visual delight. The campaign marks the first time that Pantene has ever used athletes in its ads…certainly not the first time a woman was featured but definitely a tie to the Games and another nod to females
Expanding the beauty vocabulary
These ads show that beauty isn’t reserved just for models or actresses. Athletes and everyday women are just as stunning in how they look and what they do whether it’s a volleyball serve or serving up dinner to their families. Expanding upon that “real” aspect can create compelling marketing message that appeals to brand audiences. Whether on the court, in a field, in offices or homes, all women exude their own sense of beauty.
It will be interesting to see if this approach to using real women can sustain itself past the Olympics—and if consumers will find it as engaging. Certain brands have been able to successfully capture the beauty of women by ‘keeping it real’ and if consumers have any say in it, that’s something they’d like to see more of. “Reality,” as John Lennon said, “leaves a lot to the imagination.”