Creating All-American Heroes

GSD&M Delivers U.S. Olympic Committee’s First Branding Effort
DALLAS–“Who’s our next hero?” asks the new campaign for the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Developed by GSD&M of Austin, Texas, the patriotic print ads are the first creative work ever commissioned by the USOC, based in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The series depicts individual Olympic athletes and teams against the backdrop of a U.S. flag. The first ad features nine-time gold medalist Carl Lewis with the commentary: “He never looked back. If he had, he would have seen a whole country behind him.”
Ads premiered last week in USA Today and will appear in Sports Illustrated, People, Time and Fortune throughout the summer. Media was placed through an undisclosed barter arrangement. No television advertising is currently planned, though the campaign strategy will be reviewed in the fall, per the agency.
The campaign signals a change in direction for the USOC. Said GSD&M senior vice president and creative director Daniel Russ: “It was time for the Olympic Committee to look at itself as a brand. The only other Olympic advertising has been done by sponsoring companies, but [the committee] hadn’t done it themselves.”
Russ said the creative concept emerged from the fact that the USOC is entirely funded by personal and corporate donations.
“Every gold medal is won because of you,” Russ said. “You can’t help but feel a part of it when you see a kid up there all alone with an American flag on his back.”
Separating the International Olympic Committee, with its recent scandals, from the USOC, which is concerned only with helping to train and prepare American athletes, was certainly a consideration in the decision to launch a first-time campaign. But GSD&M account director Lee Pilz said the IOC’s tarnished image did not influence the type of advertising developed by the agency.
“The USOC wants to send a positive message about what they do; we’re not trying to address someone else’s problems,” Pilz said.
“Our campaign reinforces how the whole country gets caught up emotionally in how the athletes do,” Pilz said. “We’re trying to remind people during the in-between years, encouraging them to think of who is going to emerge in Sydney in 2000 and Salt Lake City in 2002.