Raise your hands if the sound of ‘Eye of the Tiger’ doesn’t make you want to run up a flight of stairs or punch some big bits of frozen meat. If your hand is currently aloft I would now like you to bend slightly at the elbow and slap yourself fully in the face. You, my friend, are a filthy liar.
The fact is that, whether we like it or not, there is a form of copywriting employed exclusively by sporting goods manufacturers that despite employing the very worst excesses of chest-thumping, fist pumping rhetoric, very rarely fails to hit the spot.
From the classic slogans like ‘Just Do it’ and ‘Impossible is Nothing’ to the latest official Adidas Olympics campaign that encourages some of the most prominent British athletes to ‘Take the Stage’, all are designed to make our pulses races, our eyeballs to moisten and our gooses to bump.
And, by the power of Kriss Acabusi, are they effective.
Admittedly I am an easy target for such campaigns. Cruelly afflicted with both an intense love of sport and the lung capacity of a wheezy pigeon, these inspirational headlines are guaranteed to have me diving face first for the carpet in order to rattle through thirty (ok, four) press-ups.
And I, in many respects, am no mug. I know I am being manipulated. I know my sport-loving heartstring is being thoroughly plucked by the nimble yet remarkably cynical fingers of Adidas, Nike and their ilk. I know all of this and yet my reaction to the ultra-positive ‘You can do it’ ethos in sports marketing is as intense as it is involuntary.
I suspect that during an event like the Olympics (yes I’ve used ‘the word’ twice now. In your face LOCOG) there are countless more chumps like me waiting to dance like an insensible monkey to the tune of these sports scoundrels and their relentlessly uplifting propaganda.
All this in spite of the fact that we have reached an age where copywriting can dare to be far more subtle, even to (and well beyond) the point of ambiguity. Some of today’s more enigmatic and intricate headlines would undoubtedly have Don Draper reaching for his Whiskey and Marlboros in anger and confusion.
But the sporting headline seems to remain largely immune from this trend. It continues to be boldly and blatantly aimed at delivering the ‘Eye of the Tiger’ response that comes firmly from that most naïve and vulnerable of marketing targets – the human heart. And their way of achieving this is less to tickle at the consumer consciousness than to give it an almighty boot with a pair of fancy new trainers.
My only consolation is that despite my being swept away on this typhoon of Olympic triumphalism, the money I would have spent on a whole new sporting wardrobe by Adidas has instead been spent on a Blu-Ray player. Now, I’m off to watch Rocky and eat cheese in my slippers. Take that ‘Stage’, Adidas.
Andrew Boulton is a copywriter (and capable of doing at least seven press-ups) at the Together Agency
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