While many global marketers are aiming Olympics-related campaigns at young consumers, the real core of TV watchers of London's Summer Olympics are expected to be older Gen X-ers and boomers. Those generations also struggle more than younger ones with obesity and other health issues.
All of that may be why Coca-Cola is using its Olympics sponsorship to do more than promote its new global "Move to the Beat" campaign, which is aimed at teens. Another new initiative by Coke is highlighting active lifestyles by centering on an "eight-pack" of athletes even though the first one revealed — Shawn Johnson — won't be competing in London following her recent surprise retirement from the sport.
In a challenging time in America for soft drink brands, led by New York City's proposed ban on large soft drinks, Coke is hoisting a healthy living banner into the London 2012 Olympics with a campaign which claims that — despite being dismissed as overcaloric sugar water by many health critics — the brand actually has an association with healthy lifestyles.
"Encouraging people to get active, and providing them with opportunities to do so, has always been at the heart of our brand values," Katie Bayne, president of sparkling beverages for Coca-Cola North America, told Ad Age. Such a claim might be expected of its "active lifestyle" positioning were associated with its better-for-you brands such as Minute Maid Juices, Powerade sports drinks and Odwalla premium juices. Indeed, the company points out that about 150 of the 700 beverages it produces offer low-calorie and no-calorie options. It also cites its early labeling of calorie content on the front of its containers.
But in this era of hyper-criticism of soft-drink brands, Coke executives are going for the gold, hitching their flagship brand, Coca-Cola, to a better-for-you platform this Olympics — despite all the apparent obstacles.
That's where U.S. Olympic hurdler David Oliver, wrestler Henry Cejudo, Paralympic swimmer Jessica Long and the other "eight pack" athletes come in. While young, they also will catch the interest even of older Coke consumers as Summer Olympics hype switches into overdrive. The eight-pack of athletes have been rolling out week by week on MyCokeRewards, the company's U.S. loyalty marketing hub that includes interactive quizzes, instant-win prizes and sweepstakes, in the two-month run-up to London 2012.
Related commercials will run throughout the Games, but there are no plans for any competition such as, say, throwing javelins at a certain New York City Mayor or the London Assembly, which late last month voted to ban Coca-Cola (along with fellow Olympics sponsor McDonald's) from the London games and urged the IOC to revise its sponsorship guidelines.
While the London 2012 Summer Games organizers aren't deterred, the athletes both brands are helping sponsor have already faced plenty of hurdles before they even land at Heathrow Airport.