Design agencies must be having a field day this year. Just as the nation waits for major events on which to launch a branding bandwagon, two come along at once. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee has seen an outburst of media and marketing patriotism, at least in the multitude of ‘limited edition’ pack designs that have adorned our shelves. Everything from toilet paper to dishwasher tablets, from ‘Queensmill‘ bread to Tate & Lyle Syrup becoming ‘Hope & Glory‘; apparently nothing is too mundane or irrelevant to borrow the mood of the nation for its own ends.
And in a few weeks, the 2012 London Olympics start, only with much, much tighter marketing and branding rules. From exclusivities on confectionery, soft drinks, fast food and even cashpoint machines, this is properly a corporate operation which is deadly serious and has billions of pounds at stake. But even that hasn’t stopped non-sponsor brands from trying to muscle in on the Olympic action, ‘acquiring’ sporting athletic values for themselves despite everything.
I Reckon just about the single greatest piece of marketing to (re)position a brand by borrowing imagery from sports is the stunning ad campaign by Ogilvy & Mather for Lucozade in the mid 1980s. Originating more than 50 years earlier, Lucozade was a drink designed as a source of energy to help children recover from illness, and it had always been marketed in that way. It was something that mums bought when their children got poorly. It came in a big glass bottle with a cellophane wrap. It was bright orange in a way that suggested there were no real oranges in the product.
Daley Thompson is one of the UK’s (if not the world’s) greatest ever athletes. Four-time world record holder in the Decathlon, he also won two Olympic Gold medals, as well as the World and European Championships. Competing in 10 different disciplines over 2 days, his sport is as tough as it gets, and he was the best.
Shortly after his second Olympic success at Los Angeles in 1984, Daley Thompson became the new face for Lucozade. I remember watching this ad that started with the traffic lights and the introduction to an Iron Maiden song “Phantom of the Opera” from their fairly obscure first album, and Daley Thompson training on some track in the middle of nowhere. In my teens I had an ‘Iron Maiden phase’, and I loved this track. What was it doing in an advert?! For Lucozade!?
This campaign repositioned Lucozade from a medicine for tired and poorly children (and their mothers) to a fuel for athletes. “Aiding Recovery” became “Replacing Lost Energy”. This was a product for grown-ups, for healthy people, for athletic people, for men. It was no longer a sign of illness or weakness, but a sign of personal strength. And what better personification of that strength than Daley Thompson? For good measure, the voiceover at the end of the ad is by Des Lynam, at that time the BBC’s flagship sports presenter. And in purely executional terms, it’s about as far from their adverts of the 1970s as it’s possible to be.
In one ad campaign Lucozade invented the energy drinks market, which is now worth over $7bn in the US and £1bn in the UK alone. In the few years following this repositioning, its UK sales more than trebled as people who had never considered the product started adopting it in droves.
Lucozade took on a new role that now is completely understood, but at the time was revolutionary. To achieve such a leap in people’s minds it clearly needed help, so it borrowed Daley Thompson. If anyone needed to replace lost energy, he was the man. He was exactly the sort of person who needed Lucozade, we just hadn’t realised it until then. This was a landmark campaign that enabled Lucozade to extend its presence into countless sports and even music festivals. I really doubt if anything we see this year will deliver even a fraction of that achievement.