Profile: Jeremy Gilley

The man marketing world peace

Coca-Cola unveils ‘biggest and most expansive’ Special Olympics push

Coca-Cola GB is launching its “biggest and most expansive” campaign for its 35-year association with the Special Olympics as it looks to raise awareness of the event it claims is often confused with the Paralympics.

The campaign launched today (14 August) to mark the Special Olympics National Games held in Bath later this month (28 August).

Outdoor, print and Facebook ads feature 12 competing athletes from each of the sports at the Games alongside a takeover of the brand’s Piccadilly Circus sign. A film “Let Me Win” will also be promoted across Coke’s social media channels. It uses footage of the athletes training and sees each of them quoting lines from a poem based on the Special Olympics Oath, promising to embrace the spirit of the Games.

The Special Olympics is a global charity, backed by the International Olympic Committee, that provides year-round training and competition for athletes with intellectual disabilities through a series of regional volunteer-run clubs across nearly 200 countries. National Games are held every 4 years alternating between Summer World Games and Winter World Games, and then European and International Games.

Despite its scale, organisers do not have the financial support of other international sporting events and Coke hopes its campaign will help it achieve a “fitting legacy of increased awareness and participation”.

Liz Lowe, corporate responsibility and sustainability manager for Coca-Cola GB, told Marketing Week it wants to tap the “wave of enthusiasm” the British public has for disability sport after last year’s Paralympic Games to help establish a ”stronger” Special Olympics brand. Additionally, the campaign marks what the company claims is a “milestone” year in its ongoing association with the event.

Lowe adds: “This isn’t a brand building platform for us. It’s about giving the Special Olympics the wherewithal to achieve marketing success that they would never be able to normally do.

“We’re trying to bring some of the quality and professionalism that people saw around London 2012 to the Special Olympics. This extends to the athletes and how we’ve used them in activity. We wanted to put the athletes at the heart of the campaign because people can identify with them. They are not professional athletes and they are not shown in that way. Instead, we’ve tried to focus on how they take as much pride and pleasure in the sport as their peers from Team GB.”

The campaign builds on Coke’s wider efforts to increase youth participation with sport beyond the London 2012 Olympic Games as it looks to stave off criticisms from health charities it is not doing enough to cut obesity levels in the UK. Earlier this year, it extended its partnership with national sports charity Street Games for a further three years and is rolling out grassroots activity nationwide.

The activity comes amid concerns from industry observers and politicians that sponsors are abandoning their commitment to the Olympic Legacy just 12 months on from London 2012. Labour have recently accused the Government of failing the legacy, however, ministers argue the benefits cannot be judged for up to 10 years.

Lowe says the business hopes the campaign reinforces its commitment to promoting healthier living and “makes people understand” its ties to sport.  

She adds: “It’s not like we’ve only just started doing grassroots activity around sports. We are making more of it now – especially with the Olympic movement. Legacy has to be fundamental to a brand’s credibility in being in sport in the first place.”

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