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Ad Stand: The Olympic Saga

The Olympics is here but very few brands have sports as the running theme or are leveraging the Games

Delhi | August 10, 2016

Adstand by Naresh Gupta

Sports is not a part of our popular culture. There are very few movies that have sports as their theme, even fewer ads that have sports as their central narrative. There have been some movies with sports as the central theme and they have done well, but that hasn't inspired more such movies. Just a few brands use sports as the central theme in ads, even if sports is the central theme in their global narrative.

No wonder the TV is mum even as the Olympics is here and very few brands have sports as a running theme. Very few brands are leveraging Olympics as an event or as theme.

Tata Salt and the making of Olympians

A brand that is leveraging sports in an interesting way is Tata Salt’s #NamakKeWaastey campaign. It has little tales featuring some of India’s Olympians such as boxer Shiv Thapa, wrestler Babita Kumari or shot-putter Inderjeet Singh.

The narrative of the campaign is very engaging. The story of struggles, hard work and dedication of what makes a champion is told very well. Each film ends with a short action from the person’s chosen sport, making it very impactful. While I am not a fan of the hashtag the brand has used, the whole campaign is commendable. The digital campaign running alongside has a similar theme with many more sports and people lending their support to the campaign.

Edelweiss and Olympics


There is a lot happening on the sports front in India actually. Olympic Gold Quest is a long running programme that supports upcoming sportspersons. It gets sportspersons financial support to follow their passion. Edelweiss has been one such company associated with the programme. It released a kind of anthem, motivating the entire country to back the athletes. The #IamTeamIndia spot is a montage of people of all walks of life coming together to announce #IamTeamIndia. The spot could have become iconic, if only they had infused far greater energy into the commercial and made it like a true sports commercial. It would have done the brand a world of good. Still it's a good effort from a brand that is not a regular advertiser.

JSW’s #RuknaNahinHai is a winner


JSW’s spot on Olympic sponsorship of the girl who ran when she was happy and ran when she was sad and ran when she wanted to win is absolutely delightful. This is the kind of storytelling that goes deep into the real motivations of the sportspersons and tells the hard choice they made in life. If there is a campaign that will be remembered even after the Olympics is over, then it will be this.

Nike: not the Da Ding but the Unlimited You

If there is a brand that leverages the iconography of sports from pop culture then it is Nike. In India though, they haven’t cracked the code. Sadly they have fallen prey to celebrity endorsement (as against sport star endorsement). In India, they took eight of top sports stars and made them a support cast of Deepika Padukone. The same brand has created an inspirational commercial that has an almost locker-room style pep talk to a nursery full of babies who ultimately grow up to be the world's superstars. This one has Serena Williams, and a host of basketball stars who practice their regular stuff and go about doing their regular stuff.

Everyone is going way too far is what the ad says in screaming motivational style. It shatters the age-old baseline and brings in Unlimited You to celebrate the power of human endurance.

In India, JSW has trumped Nike, not just in storytelling, but also in working hand in hand with the sportsmen and sportswomen.

Sports is not dominant in pop culture, yet the story needs to be told.

As JSW shows the way, even if sports is not dominant narrative in pop culture, its role has not been diminished. There are people who tie their shoelaces and go out to run. There are wonders like Dipa Karmakar who come out and make India proud.

It is brands like JSW that are showing the way.


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