Nike closed out the London 2012 Olympics in China with a gold medal ambush marketing performance that parlayed its Find Your Greatness fauxlympics stunt to new heights.
We already noted how Nike retooled its campaign for China's star hurdler Liu Xiang after the former gold medalist imploded in the first few steps of a preliminary race.
Now, Nike has used the same format — inspirational message superimposed on a photo — to suggest its support for many of China's star Olympic athletes, whether the Swoosh sponsored them or not. Goodness Gracious, Greatness Wall of China!
For Sunday's closing ceremony, Nike's @Justdoit Weibo account posted a unremarkable photo of an abandoned announcer's table with the message (top):
"Let's pay tribute to them: 17 days, more than 300 games, every moment has their voices in the background, they share all the greatness with the world outside outside the stadium, they are our sports commentator, behind the scenes giving voice to athletic greatness. Let's understand the significance of the #livinggreatness.
Thanking the announcers is a little corny to be sure. But the message was part of a much larger campaign that, in total, aims to give the impression to China's consumers that Nike was somehow officially involved in the Games. This is of course also the kind of ambush marketing that the International Olympic Committee has gone to pains to prevent.
Other vague, inspirational messages Weibo-ed by Nike in China include a Find Your Greatness image of a swimmer ahead of the recognizable yellow "world record" digital line seen during the races. The message: ""Greatness is making the World Record chase you." The reference Nike is making is clearly to China's Sun Yang, who shattered the world record in a perforce that has been repeated nearly daily on China's state run TV (each time including the yellow line).
Nike China certainly had a few successes to focus on, but with Liu Xiang's flameout and the nation's Nike-sponsored basketball team going a humiliating 0-5, it seems Nike chose to redirect its entire Find Your Greatness Olympic ambush about perseverance in the face of failure.
A tennis ball on the court carries the message "The opposite of Greatness is not failure, but to never have tried." China's tennis champion (and Nike spokeswoman) Li Na was knocked out in the Olympic's first round.
An archery target carried the message "Greatness can be first, and greatness can be sixth." Despite a solid team, China failed to capture an archery gold.
An image of a shuttlecock about to maybe (or maybe not!) cross the net includes the message "Even if not on the podium, one can together raise the flag of Greatness." The message was a sly reference to how China's badminton favorites Wang Xiaoli and Yang Yu were forced from London after throwing a match and how China's Wang Xin failed to play for the bronze after a (somewhat scandalous) injury.
Badminton isn't the only sport where Nike's Find Your Greatness (which translates to "Live Through Your Greatness") campaign in China subtly fed the flames of Olympic Team China controversy.
For the velodrome event, Nike's message was "Judges can decide your placement, but they cannot decide your greatness." Here, Nike evokes China's two-man bike team of Guo Shuang and Gong Jinjie, who lost the gold after they were penalized for a rule violation that the team ending up protesting and which most in China though was unfair.
But probably the most direct address of a controversy is Nike's "Live Through Your Greatness" message to 16 year old Chinese swimmer and gold medalist Ye Shiwen. Atop an image of a churned up swim lane, Nike writes "They can question your results, but they cannot question your greatness." Surely Nike means to stir the waters regarding unfounded "suggestions" that Ye must have been doping to put in that kind of record breaking performance.
Taken as a whole, Nike's ambush campaign is timely, suggests the brand was officially attached to the Games and, most importantly, plays on China's Olympic nationalism for positive brand association. Hey, China, Nike knows you got screwed ("Just Screw It"?) and Nike has your back.
Of course, the simple genius of Nike's "Live through your greatness" ambush campaign made it ripe for repurposing and parody. Golden Mile Island Riverside released a series of inspirational stock-art messages under the slogan "Give Yourself a Gold Medal."
One, displaying an empty track, reads "Even if the finish line is reached on one foot, you are still a hero." It's another brand salvaging a happy message from Liu Xiang's disaster.
Then there are the parodies which have turned Nike's Live Through Your Greatness (活出你的伟大) into a meme. Check out the fros, below:
A few of these were kids goofing around by exemplifying the "greatness" of being mentally handicapped or the "greatness" of mind numbing Justin Bieber songs, but a few others used the platform for more political controversy.
Addressing a scandal that hit during the Olympics about photo evidence alleging an Anhui official was involved in an inter-office orgy, one Weibo user posted the scandalous photo under the tagline "Live Through Your Greatness."
Of course the existence of the meme is evidence that Nike's efforts were very effective, sweeping the 2012 Weibolympics.