Y&R Bows U.S. Olympic Committee Effort

Animated videos tell athlete stories

’Tis the season for Olympian advertising. Days after Procter & Gamble bowed a global campaign celebrating the moms of Olympic athletes, the U.S. Olympic Committee is launching an effort designed to raise funds for the U.S. team.

The “Raise the Flag” campaign from Young & Rubicam features animated Web videos in which Olympic athletes talk about relatives who’ve supported them along the way. As in P&G’s push, a mom receives praise, but so do a cousin and a sister. The approach is designed to bring non-relatives into the “family” via their donations.

Each film uses colorful animation to illustrate the words of an athlete, be it freestyle wrestler Henry Cejudo or boxer Queen Underwood. Y&R and animators Duck studios produced about 10 films, which are featured on the USOC’s redesigned website and its Facebook page.

The storytelling tack isn’t unique. Certainly, the broadcast of each Olympic game features innumerable vignettes about athletes. But the animation brings the stories to life in a colorful and disarming way.

“You’re not seeing the typical footage of athlete in the pool or athlete on a track,” explained Jim Elliott, chief creative officer at Y&R New York. “We had a chance to have them in front of the camera, telling their story. But then, we really wanted to bring that to life in some way afterwards. We thought this animation style could be a really interesting way to do that.”

Sister shop VML rebuilt the website, which also includes print profiles of athletes, still photos and a digital depiction of the stitching of an American flag. For a donation of $12, you can “buy a stitch.” The team will bring the resulting flag to London, the host of the 2012 games, which begin in July.

Other elements in the new campaign include print ads, billboards, public service ads, public relations efforts—via another sister shop, Cohn & Wolfe—and social media marketing.

USOC chief marketing officer Lisa Baird described the campaign as "critical," given that the U.S. Olympic team "receives no financial support from the government. We rely on the American people and corporate sponsors to support our Olympic athletes."

“Raise the flag” represents Y&R’s first big campaign since landing the USOC assignment earlier in the year. The first trace of the USOC’s new “team behind the team” strategy appeared in the form of a two-minute Web video that the organization debuted on its Facebook page in August.