McVitie's embraces irony of sponsoring elite athletes in Team GB activity

Brand is launching three-phrase campaign coinciding with Olympic Games.

McVitie’s: first phase set to run for three months
McVitie’s: first phase set to run for three months

McVitie’s is going for gold with a £10m campaign promoting the biscuit brand’s partnership with Team GB ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Created by TBWA\London and comprising three phases, the campaign kicks off with self-aware ads that read "Biscuit company sponsors people not currently eating biscuits. You couldn’t make it up", alongside a declaration of McVitie’s as the "proud (if not slightly awkward) official partner of Team GB".

Leaning in to the irony of a biscuit brand sponsoring an Olympics team on stringent diets, another execution reads: "We’ve just pressed play on a sponsorship deal with someone who’s just pressed pause on eating biscuits. No, really."

The campaign launches today (16 March) and spans TV, out-of-home, radio, print, digital display, social media and in-store activity for three months. It was created by Ben Brazier and Johnny Ruthven, and directed by Ninian Doff through Pulse. Media is handled by Manning Gottlieb OMD.

"TBWA's whole proposition as an agency is around disruption, but it wasn't too hard to expose how we should do something different because Team GB and McVitie's are not natural bedfellows – it's a biscuit brand working with an elite sports team," Emma Stowers, McVitie’s brand director, told Campaign.

"We have some things that definitely bind us together: Team GB is all about bringing the nation together through sport and we're all about bringing the nation together over a biscuit – a role we play within society.

"It's a slightly awkward partnership, but we have a responsibility as a British brand to support our team and there's nothing we like more than to rally the nation."

Team GB: campaign stars British athletes ahead of this year’s Olympics

Phase two of the campaign (debuting on 1 May) features a main TV ad, alongside social videos starring diver Tom Daley, gymnasts Max Whitlock, Rebecca Downie and Ellie Downie, canoeist Liam Heath, taekwondo athlete Lauren Williams and boxer Frazer Clarke as they embark on a biscuit-free Olympic pre-season. 

The final phase is set to launch after the Games – which will take place between 24 July and 9 August –and will include further social activity starring the Team GB athletes.

Andy Jex, chief creative officer at TBWA\London, said: "It takes a heart-of-the-nation brand, that’s down to Earth and humble like McVitie’s, to pull off an idea like this. 

"I love the honesty of putting the stars who aren’t actually eating our product at the moment front and centre. It genuinely feels like a fresh break from the category conventions of inauthentic sports sponsorship."

In light of the coronavirus outbreak, Stowers said McVitie’s was in "close consultation with the British Olympic Association" and has created a contingency plan in the event that this year’s tournament is cancelled as concerns continue to grow about Covid-19.

"At the minute, it's business as usual for us. We're still planning in a positive way for it to go ahead, but obviously we're looking at a plan B," she said.

"What's great about our campaign is that we're running behind Team GB, so we are looking at ways to kind of navigate the narrative, should it be cancelled."

McVitie’s: campaign features diver Tom Daley

Daley is no stranger to advertising. Last year, the diver appeared alongside Denise Lewis to highlight caravan holiday park chain Haven's sponsorship of Team GB. Other Team GB partners and sponsors include Coca-Cola, Aldi and Toyota

Other ads Daley has starred in include Bulk Powders, London & Partners, Google, Adidas and – way back in 2011 – Nestlé. Chelsea Apps, meanwhile, launched a diving game starring the man himself, aptly named Tom Daley Dive.

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