In 2010, Procter & Gamble signed two deals that arguably could be described as the most significant and as having the most marketing impact in the company's history, one to become a global Olympics partner with the International Olympic Committee, the other to become the "official locker room" marketing partner of the NFL.
Key to the deals was a goal to build brand equity and boost incremental sales by targeting both women — traditionally P&G's prime demographic — and men. The latter was more of a challenge, considering that many of P&G's core brands do not normally skew toward male consumers.
How best to do that? Find established NFL stars whose "manhood" was beyond reproach to endorse brands encompassed by the alliance. So it signed Troy Polamalu, a future Hall of Fame defensive back with the Pittsburgh Steelers, to hawk Head & Shoulders; Drew Brees, future Hall of Fame quarterback with the New Orleans Saints, to sell Vicks; and various players to show how Febreze made their stinky uniforms, socks and cleats smell better.
"It's not an obvious kind of connection between [some of our products] and the NFL," said Jodi Allen, P&G vice president for North America Operations and Marketing. "With Head & Shoulders, we showed that everyone wants clean, healthy hair. With Vicks, the way we brought the idea to life is that everybody has to be at work in the morning and has to have a good night's sleep. With Febreze, we showed that everyone wants their clothes to smell clean. It absolutely works in a brilliant way."
How does this translate to the London Olympics? P&G has aligned with 150 athletes worldwide whose presence is intended to make both women — who traditionally comprise the majority of viewers during Olympic telecasts — and men take notice of products not generally associated with Olympic competition. In the U.S., they include Pantene (Natalie Coughlin), Pampers (Kerri Walsh), Gillette (Tyson Gay, Ryan Lochte) and Head & Shoulders (Michael Phelps).
The two that perhaps stand out as being the most atypical: Using female boxer Marlen Esparza to support CoverGirl and track and field star Lopez Lomong to promote Tide.
According to Esparza, “I feel that I embody the image of CoverGirl and that anyone can be beautiful, and is deserving of beauty no matter what your personal situation is." Said Allen, "Women's boxing will be part of the Olympics for the first time and we wanted to be part of that. [We] have a great campaign that promotes the idea, 'I'm tough. I'm beautiful. I'm a CoverGirl.'"
In April, P&G moved to put Tide in the face of football fans by signing individual deals between the laundry brand and each of the NFL's 32 teams (joining only PepsiCo's Gatorade as a brand to have that designation). How did the company justify trying to get consumers to associate Tide with pro football? "The NFL is the ultimate test for a laundry detergent and we're proud that our brand is one the equipment managers trust to keep uniforms clean," Sundar Raman, North America Fabric Care marketing director at P&G, said of its consumer-targeted effort.
Fast-forward to London 2012. With Lomong, P&G is featuring as a spokesperson for Tide's "My Story. Our Flag" effort a young man who went from being a "Lost Boy" of Sudan to naturalized U.S. citizen to the U.S. flag bearer at the Opening Ceremonies in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The theory: Men can appreciate his speed and athleticism, women can appreciate his hardships and challenges.
"That is something we believe will resonate with people and, in turn, have them think of Tide when they watch [him in] the Olympics," said Allen. "For each of our brands, we really have spent a lot of time and effort to find the right ideas as well as the right brand ambassadors. And I feel we have done a brilliant job of making it authentic."