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The 2020 Olympics are finally here, after a one-year delay, and already it is clear it isn’t business as usual. However, once things get going, we believe the excitement will come rushing back. Here, The Drum editorial team pick their favorite Olympics ads of all time. 

First things first – this year, brands have been a little more subdued in their approach to the Olympics due to the Covid-19 situation on the ground in Japan. It is a remarkable situation that saw Toyota drop Olympics TV ads during a long-awaited home Olympics (we explored why here).

There has also been talk of a cancellation, which would be a nightmare for sponsors, and conflict around whether athletes can be broadcast taking the knee in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Along the way, we’ve been tracking some of the big global Olympics campaigns landing in this cycle (watch them here). 

So, without further ado, here are The Drum’s favorite ever Olympics.

‘It starts with a push’ by IOC, 2021

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Kenneth Hein, US editor: Walking out of my local CVS pharmacy with some impulse items that I probably didn’t need, I couldn’t help but admire the grace of a skateboarder gliding by. Flawlessly he jumped a curb and just kept keeping on. Skateboarding has always been cool. And if you tried it once as a kid and fell in your neighbor’s hedges, like me, there was always the Tony Hawk Pro Skater video games. Somehow, it always felt like something that everyone could enjoy – even if it was just by watching a couple of hours of skaters catching big air on the X Games.

That’s why ’It starts with a push’ is my first favorite Olympic ad. Great song, great vibe, and always nice to see the elder statesman of the sport, Tony Hawk, out there leading the way. I can only imagine what it will feel like for those kids who spent endless hours practicing kickflips and grinds in random parking lots to actually compete in the Olympic Games. It certainly makes me want to watch and, perhaps, start using the word gnarly again.

 

‘Rukna Nahi Hai (Do not stop)’ by Jindal Group, 2021

 

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Amit Bapna, APAC editor-at-large: On first viewing, the JSW Ggroup’s Olympics film seems commonplace enough with a series of montages of sportsmen and women practicing hard for the mega-event. On closer look, the two-plus minute film has an inspiring premise – of converting the extra 365 days of the pandemic-led postponement to advantage. This meant training harder while deploying creative solutions to replace closed venues – by converting homes and courtyards into training platforms. JSW Group, as an official Team India sponsor for the Olympics, has been doing its bit to get the athletes ready – it also opened its high-performance training center in South India to all Tokyo-bound Indian athletes.

Ogilvy India, the creative agency behind the campaign, put together the film in tough lockdown situations, with every athlete’s video being captured on phone and then weaved into the story.

 ‘Rio 2016 Trailer’ by BBC, 2016

 
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John McCarthy, media editor: An animated animal movie, but good. You get a taste of Brazil, you get to see some cool animals (probably extinct now after those rainforest fires) and you come away excited. The promo is so good that it makes me wish an animal Olympics exists. It’s a better spectacle. That’s probably just Crufts in hindsight. Anyway, this is how you get a man like me excited – crocodiles (alligators?) doing gymnastics. This is probably on par with the BBC team’s amazing work on the Tokyo 2020 Games, but I thought I’d go a little further back in time.

‘Rule Yourself’ by Under Armour, 2016

 
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Imogen Watson, senior creative reporter: It takes an Olympian effort to become an Olympian, so imagine how much work went into being the most decorated Olympian of all time. 

While the whole world tuned in every four years to watch US swimmer Michael Phelps, the part they don’t see is the grueling work that got him there. Well, until Under Armour made it the sole focus of its Rio 2016 ad, with the tagline: ’It’s what you do in the dark that puts you in the light.’

Created by Droga5, the jaw-dropping ad marked Phelps’s last Games with an epic goodbye, documenting the trials and tribulations of training. 

‘Thank You, Mom’ by P&G, 2016

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Shawn Lim, APAC journalist: What connection does P&G have to the Olympics? Well, none, but every Olympic athlete has a mom and more often than not they’ve been the foundation success is built upon. We all love moms, don’t we? As part of the campaign, P&G also built the P&G Family Home, the first ’home away from home’ for moms and families of Olympic athletes, and flew all Team USA moms to the Olympics. What a great idea. 

‘Mother’ by The National Lottery, 2012

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Amy Houston, social media exec: This emotive spot by AMV BBDO for The National Lottery was part of its life-changing campaign and aimed to raise awareness about the funding it provided to GB athletes and London 2012. It tells the compelling story of Olympic athlete Jenny Meadows’s mother, from her childhood in the 1960s to the present day, and highlights how she supported her daughter’s dreams of becoming a professional athlete – which echoed her own lifelong ambitions – with the help of funding from The National Lottery.

I’m always drawn to creative that has a retro feel to it, so from the get-go this ad had my attention. Teamed with the running theme of a beautiful mother-daughter bond and I was sold.