Matthew Weiner
Feb 22, 2023

Horsing around for the Tokyo Olympics

A new video podcast series looks back on celebrated sports advertising campaigns. Here the creator and presenter remembers one personal favourite that he was involved in.

Horsing around for the Tokyo Olympics

Do you have a favourite sports campaign? Maybe it’s a classic Nike football ad or an out-of-this-world Red Bull stunt.

For me it’s The Swoosh’s "Airport 98". You know the one when Ronaldo and the Brazil team samba-ed their way around a terminal with effortless cool.

The ad was as unforgettable as anything that that World Cup had to offer and after watching it I fell immediately in love with sport campaigns.

At Redtorch we’re fortunate enough to be trusted by some of the biggest names in sport to create campaigns and so we’re always looking to share industry insights that will help raise the game.

That’s why we’ve launched a podcast called SportOnCreative. It’s about great sports campaigns by the people who made them.

As far as we’re aware it’s the only podcast out there exclusively dedicated to creative sports campaigns.

It’s basically an excuse for me to interview some of the most creative and interesting people in the business.

In each episode I chat to an expert about their favourite campaign and find out how they made it, what worked, what didn’t and what we can all learn from their experience.

With creativity being one of the most important drivers of marketing effectiveness, it’s like giving our listeners a cheat code.

SportOnCreative kicks off with a deep dive into the mini Mini campaign at the London 2012 Olympics with the former chief executive of international sports marketing agency Synergy, Tim Crow.

Crow, a sports and esports business advisor who has been at the forefront of sport for 30 years, provides fascinating insights into an incredible Olympic campaign that involved a fleet of remote-controlled mini Minis whiz around Olympic regulations to steal the show at the London 2012 Games and, in the process, create a new tool in the sports marketers’ playbook.

In the interview, Crow reveals how Mini managed to manoeuvre around the Olympics’ no logo regulations “I get asked that a lot,” he says. He also shares lots of  invaluable lessons he learned creating this great campaign and many others along the way.

Future episodes of SportOnCreative include a chat with PR guru Andrew Bloch about the time he convinced snooker star Jimmy White to change his name to Jimmy Brown, cooking up a perfect PR storm for sponsors of The Masters, HP Sauce.

But if I were to interview myself about my own favourite campaign, the one I would choose would probably surprise a few people.

Despite being a huge football fan and having worked with the likes of Adidas, Puma, Arsenal and The Premier League, I’d probably pick Redtorch’s award-winning Olympic campaign for The International Federation for Equestrian Sports.

It was a tough gig. A really tough gig. Our goal was to make equestrian sport one of the most engaged sports at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics. But initial research revealed that sports fans considered equestrian sport elitist, boring and hard to understand.

So, to make it stand out from the other 32 sports at the Games, Redtorch’s strategic dynamic duo Chris Argyle-Robinson and Alex Ross homed in on the three things that made the sport special and would appeal to a wider audience.

First, there was the unique relationship between horse and rider – no other sport at the Olympics features a rider/animal relationship.

Then there was the gender parity. It’s the only Olympic sport where men and women compete against each other.

Lastly, age is no barrier. It was the only sport at Tokyo 2020 where a 60-year-old woman could compete against a 20-year-old man – and win...

We called our campaign "We don’t play" because we wanted to spotlight equestrian sport’s difference from all the others.

While all those other athletes are just playing, our equestrians are instead – according to their discipline – jumping, dancing and flying.

And fly we did.

By the end of the campaign, the team led by project managers extraordinaire Jacqueline Darby and Jess Reus, and fuelled by the creative juices of Tom Kirkland and Ziad Koulailat, had delivered 3,000 pieces of content and helped equestrianism to be one of the most engaged sports at Tokyo 2020.

One supporter even got themselves a #WeDontPlay tattoo. Don’t ask where.

Even better, Snoop Dogg declared himself the sport’s most unlikely new fan.

The most rewarding aspect of the campaign for me was an activation we called "Tokyo to go".

As fans couldn’t get to Japan because of the pandemic we decided to bring a little bit of the Games to them.

To help inspire the next generation of equestrians, we arranged for Olympic medallist Tina Cook and her horse Billy the Red to surprise a bunch of young people at an inner-city youth club.

After giving the kids a masterclass in jumping, Tina decided to take them on an ever-so-slightly chaotic ride through the streets of Brixton past the brightly painted street art.

Watching this adventure of a lifetime unfold was, like all great campaigns, a visual and emotional treat I’ll never forget.

Matt Weiner is creative director of Redtorch. The first episode of SportOnCreative can be watched here.

Campaign UK

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