August 25th, 2016

Nike, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Procter & Gamble Break Through for Gold in Rio


Ace Metrix

After 16 days of thrilling events, and thousands upon thousands of hours of coverage, the Rio Olympics came to a close last Sunday night. Many athletes left an indelible mark on our collective memory, with astounding feats of agility, speed, strength, and mental fortitude. Some, though not all, of these athletes were already somewhat familiar to us, whether from past success, their association with brands, or both. We welcomed Simone Biles, Allyson Felix, Kerri Walsh-Jennings, Ashton Eaton, and Michael Phelps into our homes and our hearts. These athletes not only medaled at the games, they were also among the most popular in Olympics advertising. We’ll explore how their ads connected with consumers a little later in this post. First, let’s focus on the ads and brands that broke through with their Olympics advertising.

Ace Metrix tested over 160 Olympics ads dating back to February, and deep analysis of consumer response to these ads shows that despite relaxed rules for non-sponsors advertising this year, official sponsor ads had stronger results. It’s clear that brands who make the substantial investment to sponsor the Olympics strive to make sure their ads deliver. This is evidenced by the list of Top 10 Breakthrough ads from the Games, below, which is dominated by official sponsors. The Ace Score components of Likeability and Attention combine to form the Breakthrough dimension of an ad, which is particularly important for Olympic ads, as it measures an ad’s ability to break through the clutter and get noticed.

Top Breakthrough Ads of the Rio Olympics

Rank Brand Ad Title Ad Length Attention Score Likeabilty Score
1 Procter & Gamble Thank You, Mom – Strong 2:00 780 754
2 Dick’s Sporting Goods The Contenders :60 1:00 746 739
3 Samsung The Anthem – Rio 2016 Olympic Games 1:40 735 727
4 Bounty Allyson Felix: Faster Than Chloe :30 725 736
5 Dick’s Sporting Goods Vault. Sleep. Repeat. (:60) 1:00 721 727
6 Gatorade* Never Lose the Love 1:00 709 737
7 United One Journey. Two Teams. 1:00 736 709
8 Hershey’s U.S. Olympic Hopeful Hello From Home 2:10 712 727
9 Hershey’s Hello From Home U.S. Olympic Wrestler 2:10 712 726
10 Nike General Apparel Unlimited You 2:35 742 696

*not an official Olympics sponsor

Emotionally Charged Ads Lead the Way

The top three ads on the list all excelled in overall effectiveness, in addition to demonstrating strong Breakthrough. They were all powered by Visual Scenes and Messages, overwhelmingly named the Best Things about the Ads by viewers. Perhaps most remarkable, is that all three ads had a tremendous capacity to strike an emotional bond with viewers, proving that the most heartfelt messages often resonate the strongest. Using NLP algorithms and clustering, we can categorize particular words in viewer verbatim comments aligned with specific emotional responses, and the Emotional Word Cloud below is an aggregate of the emotion evoked from those top three ads.

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 9.50.52 PM

Honorable Mentions: Non-Sponsor Breakthrough Ads

Aside from Gatorade’s “Never Lose the Love”, the three non-sponsor ads that performed the best in terms of Breakthrough were:

Brand Ad Title Ad Length Attention Score Likeabilty Score
Pizza Hut The Big Flavor Dipper: USA Edition :30 713 699
Toyota Stand Together 1:30 725 685
Apple “The Human Family – Shot on iPhone” 1:40 698 703

In addition to being attention-grabbing and likeable, these ads had strong Relevance scores, and in the case of Pizza Hut, drove strong Desire. The Emo Cloud below shows how the imagery and humor of the ad led to great results. Said one F21-35-year-old viewer, “It shows something new from the brand itself, looks delicious, and also hints towards an upcoming country event- all wrapped up into a great, appealing commercial!”

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 7.45.40 AM


Breakthrough Brands

On an aggregate basis, official sponsors Nike, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and the P&G family of brands made it to the medal stand for highest average Breakthrough level for all of their ads combined. Nike’s “Unlimited” campaign drove success for the brand through inspiring and relatable stories for the athlete in all of us, as well with a focus on Olympians such as Simone Biles and Allyson Felix. Dick’s Sporting Goods’ altruistic support of its employee athletes, as well as their stirring tribute to the “Gold in US”, contributed to the brand’s stellar success engaging viewers. Of course, P&G’s now iconic homage to the moms behind every athlete was as captivating as previous versions. With only 14% of all Olympics ads incorporating humor, P&G’s Bounty and Nike set that standard with “Allyson Felix: Faster Than Chloe” and “Unlimited You.”

Bounty “Allyson Felix: Faster Than Chloe”                   Nike “Unlimited You”


Looking at the Breakthrough level of all ads by non-sponsor brands (again, with four or more ads), the highest performer is Under Armour, in large part due to the visually impressive spots, “Rule Yourself – USA Women’s Gymnastics” and “Rule Yourself – Michael Phelps”. Over 30% of viewers of these ads said the “Visual Scenes” were the Single Best Thing about the ad. Comments include:

  • “I loved it! The comparison of light and dark was stunning. Also, the videography was excellent and really caught my attention.” F36-49 on “Rule Yourself-Michael Phelps”.
  • “The ad was amazing. The strength and feats of the characters were very impressive. The soundtrack was catchy, the imagery was awesome. There was almost nothing about Under Armour in the ad that I could tell until the very end, but it left a lasting impression.” M21-35 on “Rule Yourself – USA Women’s Gymnastics”. 

Breakthrough Athletes

It’s clear from our data that ads featuring Olympians perform better than those without, and we’ve even observed that multiple athletes lead to slightly higher overall effectiveness than a single athlete. That said, some athletes show a higher propensity to connect with viewers than others. In examining the Breakthrough power of individual athletes, we can see that women are the true darlings of the games. Among Olympians appearing in more than three ads we tested, the top four with the highest aggregate level of Breakthrough were:

Likeability Average Attention Average
Simone Biles 694 703
Serena Williams 693 702
Kerri Walsh-Jennings 678 699
Missy Franklin 672 690

In the interest of gender equality, it bears mentioning that the next two on the list are Nathan Adrian, and Usain Bolt. Also interesting to note, of the four female athletes above, three came up short in their personal Olympics quests. Only Simone Biles was successful in achieving both team gold and individual gold medals. While sponsors may bank on athletes they think will be successful, it doesn’t always turn out as planned. Since testing of the ads occurred in parallel to the games, it’s unclear as to whether Olympic results affects viewer reception to the ads. It may be that regardless of where they finish in medal contention, viewers find these athletes loveable and engaging.

The Rio Olympics truly brought an abundance of stellar creative and we could go on and on discussing specific examples that spoke to viewers. Contact us for more information on the ads and brands of the Games. It’s never too early to start planning for Pyeongchang 2018!


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