10 of the most inspiring Olympic Games ads with Usain Bolt, Eddie the Eagle & Kerri Strug

Olympics ads

The Olympics and its equally-inspiring offshoots, the Paralympics and the Special Olympics, come around every four years representing an ideal opportunity for brands around the world to sow a little emotional heft into their marketing campaigns.

Brands across sectors as varied as cereals, sportswear, fast food, soda, electronics, finance all converge to put top athletes on a podium as ambassadors during the Games. After all, an endorsement from a gold medal winner is both a considerable seal of approval, helping to align the company with the illustrious efforts of an Olympian.

With Tokyo 2020 coming ever closer after a resplendent Rio 2016, brands will be scouting out the athletes who will deliver the next generation of inspiring ads.

Just last week, Nicola Adams, the double Olympic gold winning boxer, featured in a new advertising campaign for E45. So here are some of the most inspiring slots throughout the history of the Games from The Drum.

It culminates in work across the Olympics, Paralympics and Special Olympic.

1. Virgin: Usain Bolt: #BeTheFastest

​Usain Bolt is a prolific athlete, the first man to simultaneously hold both the 100 metres and 200 metres world records, he holds eight Olympic gold medals and is a longtime ambassador for Virgin Media in the UK, here's their finest slot for the star, created by BBH London.

2. Channel 4: We're The Superhumans

​​Tasked with delivering the strongest pre-Games ever for the Paralympics, Channel 4 went all in with its biggest-ever marketing campaign, ‘Meet the Superhumans’. It was universally well received and raised the profile of the Games to a new level.

3. Under Armour: Rule Yourself: Michael Phelps

Swimmer and Under Armour ambassador Michael Phelps,, is the most decorated Olympian of all time, with a total of 28 medals. He also boasts one of the most shared ads ever from Droga5. This ad showcased his commitment to his aqua-based athletics.

4. Visa: Go World: Derek Redmond

In 2008, TBWA\Chiat\Day tapped into one of the Olympics most-compelling stories, the 1992 footage of Derek Redmond, who, with help from his dad, finished the 400m race despite shredding his hamstring.

5. Adidas: What Will You Take

Adidas wanted to stir up a frenzy during the London 2012 Olympics. It succeeded with a star-studded slot featuring most of Team GB's triumphant participants at a record-breaking Games. Sid Lee inspired the city and the nation.

6. P&G: Thank You Mom

Moms took pride of place at P&G's subversive campaign acknowledging the commitment of parents who raise Special Olympians. Wieden + Kennedy delivered one of the most emotional slots to grace the Games.

7. Gatorade: The Boy Who Learned To Fly: Usain Bolt

Learn the lesson of the world's fastest man in this seven minute animated feature from Gatorade. From humble beginnings, it shows the ascent of one of our greatest sportsmen. It comes from TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles.

8. The National Lottery: Jenny Meadows’ Mother

Not everyone who has the heart of an Olympian can be one, but this ad underlines that the dream can be passed down from generation to generation. This work, created by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, for the National Lottery shows how a mother’s running dream was fulfilled by her daughter in a generation-spanning ad. ‘I wondered, was whatever was in me, in her?’ Mrs Meadows asks.

9. Visa: Kerri Strug

TBWA\Chiat/Day Los Angeles tapped up actor Morgan Freeman to tell the tale of gymnast Kerri Strug for Visa, back in 2008. The brand surfaced her epic 1996 team effort to bring the United States gold. Despite having a damaged foot, the teen powered on to deliver an unthinkable set.

10. Optimax: Eddie The Eagle

A special mention goes to British ski-jump legend Eddie The Eagle, who fronts a campaign for Optimax. The once heavily-bespectacled Olympian pokes fun at his old glasses in the knowledge he is perhaps one of the most-inspiring athletes ever to grace the Winter Olympic. He qualified to represent the UK on a technicality and put his health on the line to fulfill his dream of representing his country.

What are your favourite Olympic-themed ads from over the years? Tweet us @TheDrum and let us know.

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John McCarthy

John is an entertainment marketing reporter at The Drum. He writes about the amazing marketing stories coming from the movie, TV, music and video game industries. He's also the hunt for the weirder trends in marketing and advertising.

Fuelled by tea.

All by John