Every year, major brands put billions of dollars into advertising in hopes of making a significant return, lifting revenue, and improving their brand visibility. Some of those same major brands spend millions on Super Bowl ads alone, as they try to steal the show through antics and over-the-top humor in order to stand out as the most memorable brand. But when it’s time to sponsor ads for the Olympics, those brands take a very different approach to their messages. Any attempt at humor is often minimal. Instead, they aim to inspire us. Some of the greatest ads from Olympic sponsors grab us, tug at our emotions, and give us pause. They force us to think beyond ourselves and to consider the challenges and plights of others. They tell us that no matter how we feel, what we look like, or where we come from, that we have the opportunity to achieve greatness.
Some of the best ads remind us of how we got where we are. Others ensure that even after the Olympics are over, we will know that we are a world united. These ads may generate a great deal of revenue and help these brands reach a mass audience, but some of them provide so much more in terms of what they say to us. Here are the top 25 most inspirational and moving Olympics ads ever created. We recommend having a tissue handy – some of these ads will kick you right in the feels.
1. P&G – Thank You, Mom
Procter & Gamble has created what has been lauded as the most memorable, most shared Olympic video of all time. P&G, in partnership with Wieden & Kennedy Portland, launched a “Thank You, Mom” campaign, with the “Best Job” video leading off for the 2012 London Olympics. The video follows four child athletes on their path to the Olympics, supported by their mothers through thick and thin every step of the way. It will pull at your heartstrings as you realize that it takes the strongest people to make the strongest athletes.
2. Nike – Find Your Greatness
Nike does it again, and again, and again. The sporting apparel giant launched its “Find Your Greatness” campaign around the world to coincide with the opening ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympics. The ad aims to inspire, pushing us to look inward. We don’t begin great; it’s something we try, strive for, and achieve. Rather than focusing on Olympic athletes, the ad shows everyday people aspiring to be great – and achieving that greatness. It’s a state of mind that anyone can fight for and achieve.
3. McDonald’s – Rivals
We all have the capacity to be great, and the competitive Olympic spirit lives on in each of us. Most of us will never win a gold medal, but there are other things that can motivate us to find greatness in ourselves. We can compete against our own goals, or friends, even if the prize is something as simple as a Happy Meal.
4. Adidas – What Will You Take?
Adidas’ ad campaign was created in partnership with agency Sid Lee to support Team Great Britain. The powerful video covers the things that athletes leave behind, and the opportunities, sacrifices, and challenges they encounter as they train and compete to take the gold. It encourages you to embrace the same challenges, share those feelings, and not to let opportunity slip by.
5. Powerade – Power Through
Athletes face challenges every day, and there’s a fine line between the breaking point and breaking through to move forward. The extra effort, the sacrifice, the mistakes, and getting back up together make the difference between the athletes who walk away and the ones who go on to represent their countries as they compete for the gold.
6. Samsung – Are You Ready?
When the athletes head for the Olympics, the world is right alongside them and cheering them on. This ad from Samsung, featuring Olympics ambassador David Beckham, invites the world to get ready for the Olympics. It features Beckham bending an impressively long shot into a gong (unedited to showcase his skill and accuracy), kicking off the events for those watching around the world via their phones as they compete in games of their own.
7. Visa – Derek Redmond
For more than 30 years, Visa has been a proud sponsor of the Olympic Games. This video is just one ad in a series of sepia-toned advertisements published by Visa over the years. Featuring the voice of Morgan Freeman, the ad reminds us that not everyone wins medals, but that doesn’t mean we’ve lost anything along the way. Sometimes it’s not about winning… it’s about finishing strong.
8. The National Lottery – Jenny Meadows’ Mother
This advertisement comes from the National Lottery and tells the story of Olympic athlete Jenny Meadows’ mother and the sacrifices she made growing up, falling in love and supporting her daughter’s dreams, which echoed her own. It’s a beautiful backstory, intended to draw support for the National Lottery which provided funds to help more than 1,200 British athletes fulfill their dreams at the London 2012 Olympics.
9. EDF – Powering the Games
EDF was an official partner of the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympic Games. The ad centered on EDF supplying low-carbon, sustainable energy for the Olympic Park. But there was also a little more to it; the video is a humorous but inspirational reminder that while not all of us are star athletes, we all have that spirit in us. The Olympic Games are a sum of all its parts, and it takes the spirit and skill of everyday people to bring the world together and make it a better place.
10. GlaxoSmithKline – Marlon Devonish’s Exhilaration
This ad from GSK delivers a poignant anti-drug message about the tension and strain athletes must undergo when competing. It takes us inside the body of English sprinter Marlon Devonish to visually experience his emotions, anxiety, exhilaration, and even his breaking point as he preps to compete in the Olympics.
11. BP – Fueling the Future
BP was a proud sponsor of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Its ad steps away from the traditional highlighting of young athletes and Olympic competitors, and instead features those from the Paralympics. It shows how, regardless of physical differences, those athletes are still driven by the same spirit and passion that brings everyone else to the Olympic Games.
12. Bounty – Let the Spills Begin
This Olympic ad from Bounty features a number of children practicing their skills at home, from gymnastics in the hallway, to ping pong on the table and using an ottoman as a pommel horse. Dishes fall, drinks are spilled, but the training goes on. It’s a warm video calling out parents who sacrifice their homes to nurture the training and dreams of their young athletes.
13. Petro Canada – Dream Big
This ad from Petro Canada features bobsledder Jenny Ciochetti, showing the human side of Olympic hopefuls. Despite the intense training, they still experience fear, wonder, and worry. Ciochetti shared her big dream and wish to one day represent Canada in the Olympics. She later went on to win gold medals in the 2007, 2008, and 2012 Olympics – and never stopped dreaming big.
14. Coke – Home of the Game
Coke created an inspiring commercial for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The video draws on Canada’s pride as the birthplace of hockey, rallying the fans to make sure the world knows where the game came from, and that the inbound Olympic athletes are on Canada’s home ice now. Want to come brawl in their backyard? They’re waiting.
15. Kellogg’s – Celebrate the Start
We often focus on the finish of the races and talk about who will win or who has won the gold. Kellogg’s ad tells us that you can’t have a finish without the journey and to remind us that every athlete’s story has a beginning.
16. Nike – To Victory
Nike’s no stranger to inspirational content. This ad for the 2016 Olympics in Rio shows the backward progression of Olympians 15+ years from now, counting backward as the athletes grow older. It’s a great ramp up to get fans pumped for Rio, but it’s also a clever ad from Nike letting the world know that no matter the year, they’ll be there to help athletes train.
17. Visa – Carpool to Rio
This creative take from Visa is team-agnostic as it gradually builds, showing the comradery and sportsmanship among the different Olympic athletes as they pile in and converge on the 2016 Olympics. While intended to be tongue-in-cheek, it’s also a subtle reminder that we all train together, we all live together, and we all travel together – and that’s how we should support those athletes, as well.
18. Samsung – The Chant
You can’t deny the impressive scale of the Olympic Games when you see that Team USA has over 500 athletes. But step back and consider that all the teams came from something small. This year, South Sudan joins the Olympics as the newest country recognized by the IOC – and Samsung’s ad is certain to fill that nation with pride in their first-ever Olympic team as it celebrates those who overcome even the greatest barriers to compete.
19. Samsung – The Anthem
Here’s another ad for Samsung for the 2016 Olympic games in Rio. Rather than focusing on any individual athlete or team, Samsung instead created a video that demonstrated the diversity and global unity that is the Olympic Games. The video focuses on this moment of harmony with an anthem, inspired by lyrics from anthems from around the world. It’s a moving salute to those who chase their dreams, defy borders, and overcome barriers to join together at the Olympic Games.
20. Under Armour – Rule Yourself
The 2016 games in Rio mark the last time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps will compete. The ad focuses on the grueling intensity of the training that athletes like Phelps go through to compete and represent their country at the Olympic Games. It’s a strong message that shows how we get out exactly what we put in.
21. Canadian Institute for Diversity and Inclusion – The Luge
You don’t have to be a major brand with a massive production budget to send a strong and inspirational message. For the Winter 2014 Olympics, CIDI produced an ad which touched on diversity due to Russia’s anti-gay social policies. Diversity is the heart of the Olympic Games as it brings cultures and people together from around the world. The ad encourages us to celebrate it, and fight for it, so everyone has a right to compete.
22. Nike – Unlimited Future
Champions don’t start that way. They start out feeble, small, and unable to contribute much of anything. Nike’s 2016 Olympics ad stars Bobby Cannavale delivering an inspirational speech to a room full of newborns about shaping their futures, á la Pacino from Any Given Sunday. It’s amusing, but it still makes the feelings start to swell as it shows you how we’ve all come from humble beginnings – even champion athletes and Olympic gold medalists. You can’t control how your story starts, but you can control how it ends.
23. Channel 4 – Meet the Superhumans
Channel 4 launched a striking and inspirational television ad to highlight its role as the official broadcaster of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Its pride is evident as it focuses on these amazing athletes who are rarely featured in traditional advertising by other brands. It highlights the amazing feats of strength and the challenges these superhumans have overcome to make it to the Paralympic Games.
24. Channel 4 – Yes I Can
Following up on its inspirational message from the 2012 Olympics, the creative UK broadcaster returned with another empowering and inspirational commercial in support of the 2016 Paralympics in Rio. The amazing athletes are featured here, showing their passion, drive, and motivation to compete despite their physical challenges – don’t ever call them disabled.
25. Gillette – Perfect Isn’t Pretty
Gillette provides a glimpse into the Olympic training of Neymar Jr., Ning Zetao, Ashton Eaton, and Andy Tennant as they work toward the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Achieving their best is a beautiful thing, but the path, the sacrifices, the pain, and the anguish they endure to attain precision, is anything but. Which advertisement did you find most inspirational or moving? Share your favorite with us in the comments below: