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Business Comment

Claire Beale on advertising: BT connects but Volt's pure gold for Nike


Who won the commercial Olympics? We already know, thanks to research from GfK, that the hoped-for Olympic boost to consumer confidence never materialised, or if it did it was overshadowed by the darkening clouds of the weather and the economy. GfK's consumer confidence index remained at -29 in August; it's never been so low for so long.

But there is good news for some of those brands that have spent millions hooking their fortunes to the Games. The big advertising winner is BT, the Olympic sponsor which has leveraged its association with the event most successfully. BT's commercial, with its flatmates descended upon by a bevy of Spanish senoritas looking for a fast broadband connection, was 36 per cent more likely to be remembered than the average Olympic-themed ad.

And the commercial, by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, was 25 per cent more liked than the average ad from an Olympic sponsor, according to a study by researcher Nielsen.

BT also won the professional's vote, with politicians and business leaders naming it as the company that made the biggest corporate contribution to the Games through its provision of fixed telephone lines, SIM cards and wifi access. Yet it was David Beckham who got viewers most excited; his commercial for Samsung, by the ad agency Cheil, was considered the most appealing of all the ads from the Olympic sponsors.

But for all the millions spent by big brands like BT, Samsung, McDonald's and Coca-Cola on sponsoring and advertising around the Olympics, perhaps the freshest and most exciting marketing initiative came from a brand that had no licence to be involved with the Games at all.

Nike wasn't a sponsor and wasn't allowed to use any Olympic references in its advertising. No matter; Nike didn't need advertising or official status in order to make one of the biggest branding impacts at the event.

Painting its Flyknit shoe a luminous yellowy green, called Volt, was a marketing master stroke. Over 400 Olympic athletes, including Mo Farah, wore the shoe for their events, giving Nike incredible stand-out at the Games (apparently Volt is the most visible colour to the human eye) and integrating the brand right into the heart of sporting excellence.

So as BT takes its place on the official winners podium, Nike has won itself a gold in ambush marketing.

Claire Beale is editor of 'Campaign'