Monday, February 10, 2014

Is The Media Patriotic? Image Advertising In The Sochi Olympics

Source: Team Canada, #WHATSTHERE
In our opinion, the winter Olympics provides an advertising bonanza that outshines the recent Super Bowl buffet. The Sochi Games offers a roster of appropriate choices to share with students, especially when compared to the risque NFL cavalcade. So far, the 2014 ads have been patriotic rather than prurient, sensitive rather than sexual, sincere rather than sensational.

Most of the recurring NBC ads support one of the many USA sponsors. Even in their commercial branding, though, they weave a stirring quilt of contemporary Americana (and in one case, Canadiana). The commercials highlight inspiring athletes, and they paint tear-inducing storyboards of tragedy and triumph. Mostly, the ads reinforce national pride in featuring unparalleled athletes.

We have been featuring a daily "Olympic Moment" in our class each day. And we've been urging our colleagues to incorporate media literacy as an essential component of their core curricula.

The following videos are our favorites so far from the NBC broadcast. Even though these clips obviously are trying to celebrate a corporate brand, they still honor the bravery and commitment of our nation's athletes. They also introduce us to many heroes who might otherwise go unnoticed. The ads are good learning tools to pinpoint visual cues, sentimentality, symbolism, and editing. They also help introduce the idea of "image advertising," where no obvious product is for sale, but instead the idea of sponsorship is meant to reinforce a corporation's loyalty and character.

Here are our favorite commercials so far from the NBC Sochi 2014 Olympics:

Liberty Mutual's "Rise" series singles out key moments in Olympic history when athletes needed assistance and encouragement to reach the podium. The best clip, "Missteps," features the U.S. hockey team and Kerri Strug to emphasize the support of coaches, teammates, and family that all help humans achieve greatness.

Visa's ad "Flying" features ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson in a tribute to equality, fearlessness, and breaking down barriers. It also takes rich advantage of a classic quote from Amelia Earheart about the nature of success and failure.

A powerful commercial from Team Canada uses clever letter boxing to celebrate the Paralympics. The hashtag "#WHATSTHERE" invites viewers to look past the limitations of these world class athletes and instead cheer the glory in their supreme skill and strength. 

The best series of ads is probably the #itadsup collection from TDAmeritrade. Each commercial spotlights one athlete, telling his or her Olympic journey in reverse. In personal, home movie clips, the videos rewind to the beginnings of greatness. The ads are testaments to fierce determination and hard work, grit and disappointment. Each one is inspirational, but the two above and below are our favorites. They feature skeleton slider Noelle Pikus-Pace and snowboarder Louie Vito.

For other helpful resources in teaching with the Olympics, check out:


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