The opening ceremonies of the 2012 London Games aren’t set to unfold for another week, but already the competition for the best Olympics-themed advertising is starting to heat up.
According to Ace Metrix’s new ad effectiveness service, viewers overwhelmingly seem to favor messages from official Olympics sponsors. After testing a batch of 57 themed spots, the company found that seven of the 10 most effective spots were delivered by key Olympics sponsors such as Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and Visa.
Thus far, the Olympics-themed ad that has kindled the most positive viewer response is P&G’s “Hardest Job in the World” effort. The spot chronicles the pre-dawn rituals enacted by the mother of an aspiring athlete: waking her child while it’s still dark outside, escorting her to the bus that will ferry her to swim practice, washing her uniform, cheering her on at a meet.
Ace Metrix tested the 60-second version of the “Hardest Job” spot, although the original 120-second version  (“Best Job”) is particularly stirring. Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, 21 Grams) for Wieden + Kennedy, the ad was shot on four continents and features a tiny gymnast from Los Angeles, a swimmer from Beijing, a volleyball player from Rio de Janeiro and a sprinter from London. (If you can make it to the end without tearing up a little, there’s probably something wrong with you.)
The researcher asked viewers to rate the Olympics spots on eight criteria, including likeability, relevance, persuasion and watchability. All told, the “Hardest Job” spot scored 638 points out of a possible 950, making it one of the highest-rated ads Ace Metrix has tested. (With a score of 736, the 2010 Samsung 3D “Aquarium” ad  enjoys the distinction of being the No. 1 spot since Ace Metrix began measuring commercial effectiveness.)
“The P&G ad ranks in the top 3 percent of all the ads we’ve seen in terms of being able to deliver an emotional response,” said Jonathan Symonds, evp of marketing for Ace Metrix, who added that spots that offer narratives of hope and inspiration are almost always going to outperform vanilla testimonials.
Also earning a high score (623 points) was a Coca-Cola spot featuring gymnast Shawn Johnson, who announced her retirement just days before her ad debuted nationally. All told, P&G accounted for four of the top 10 spots in the survey, while Coke claimed two. Visa and TD Ameritrade (an official sponsor of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team) also put up some lofty numbers.
While Sega is not an official sponsor of the London Games, its “Mario & Sonic at the Olympics” spot took the silver, earning a score of 631 points.
Ace Metrix will continue to score every national Olympics ad leading up to and throughout the games. The company will offer its proprietary data to brands and media agencies on a subscription basis.
Symonds notes that the testing process is stringent. Each ad is offered for review as close to its original airdate as possible, usually within the first 24 hours. In order to simulate the actual broadcast experience, the creative is assembled in flights of four-to-six spots, with Olympics-themed ads  being mixed randomly with non-Olympics ads. A respondent must score each ad in a flight in order for the data to be deemed complete. Skipping even one commercial invalidates the entire flight.
While official London Games backers like P&G, Coca-Cola and Visa can expect to draw a good deal of attention with their Olympics spots, the high-rated ads also may benefit from the sheer volume of low-rated creative set to hit the airwaves.
“We routinely see ads that hover around the 300 mark, but you have to get into politics before you drop into the 200-point range,” said Symonds. “That partisan stuff doesn’t seem to resonate with anyone.”
As Adweek reported late last month, NBC is on track to book nearly $1 billion in ad sales  revenue for its 17-day coverage of the Summer Games. The opening ceremonies will air July 27.