Lenah Ueltzen-Gabell was an award-winning equestrian in her younger days. She joined Wasserman in 2008 and oversees its international hub and EMEA Marketing Services in London. Since setting up in London, Lenah and her team have quadrupled the size of the marketing business through a combination of organic growth and acquisition. In the past year alone, Lenah’s Marketing Services team has managed partnerships across every major sports league and totalled 125 projects in 53 countries.
Desert Island Ads
Hope you like sports ads.
As my role at Wasserman sits on the crossroads of marketing and sport, I decided it would be fun to choose my all-time favourite sports campaigns.
To make a truly outstanding ad I believe you need to make it emotional, culturally relevant and give it a wicked soundtrack. An ability to not take yourself too seriously, or doing thing outside of the norm, also helps – and this doesn’t change for sports advertising. All of these ads have all of these things in spades.
It was also really heartening to see how many times the campaigns for sports brands transcended their sports, using their reach (often into younger, hard to reach markets) to tackle tough issues and drive positive messaging.
Sport England -This Girl Can
Absolute game changer. This wasn’t a match lighting the blue touch paper, but a bolt of lightning starting an unending fire. Out of nowhere the growing movement for gender equality, in the wider world but also within advertising and marketing itself, had a voice and a soundtrack and something to feel proud of. Something to show that we (some of us at least) understood what women were going through and wanted to use our skill-sets to try and make it better.
Nike – Brazil World Cup
The stakes are high for brands before any World Cup (and for the teams as well, of course), and in 1998 Nike won the tournament easily with this ad. Lead by the world’s best player at the time (the original Ronaldo), and not only encapsulating the fun of the football the Brazilians played but the character of the striker himself, the ad re-wrote the rule book for what you can do in a football ad.
Beats By Dre – The game before the game
16 years later and the spirit of the Nike ad lived on with Beats By Dre’s more emotional and serious look at the preparation before a game. Playing on the regular images of footballers getting off the bus with their headphones on, the ad was both inspiring and deeply personal. Not an easy task with some of the mega-stars involved.
P&G – ‘Thank you Mom’ 2016 Olympics
Another Tour de Force in the march towards advertisers talking to women (and mums in particular) as actual people with hopes, dreams and aspirations – and not just as people who buy groceries and nappies. A wonderful celebration of the hard work mums put in every day that so regularly goes unseen, unnoticed or un-thanked. Heart-wrenchingly emotional with a wonderful score.
Nike Bottled Courage – Beijing Olympics
Bottled Courage • Nike • 2008 (Director's Cut) from Ralf Schmerberg on Vimeo.
Breaking conventions by starting with the inspirational quote (from Bill Bowerman, co-founder of Nike and inventor of the modern running shoe) this ad starts at a rocket pace, grabs you by the emotional shorts and never slows down, much like its stars. A montage of moments of sporting glory, excellence and strength set to an absolute banger of a track. Ticking all boxes.
Martini vintage ad – Monaco
Moving deftly away from what could be a stereotyped petrol head position, as the sun shines hazily and the drink flows over ice you can feel yourself getting lost in the glitz and glamour of Monaco. But isn’t it just the song that brings it all together? The original composition sadly seems to be a lost artform these days, and this one is superbly evocative of its time and place. Emotional, tick. Wicked soundtrack, tick.
BA interactive ad for 2012 – drive a jumbo down your street
One of the most impressive things about the 2012 Olympics was how personal it was and how involved it made you feel. And BA absolutely nailed this prevailing wind with its interactive ad. Using images from Street View users were able to steer a BA Jumbo Jet down their own street – all with The Clash’s London Calling banging out – before taking the plane back to the Olympic Park.
Anyone who knows me will have heard me wax lyrical about this campaign – but it is an all-time favourite because it just totally delivers, from concept to execution.
Pepsi – Through the Years (iconic and representative of culture if we can go outside of pure sports.)
For my last one, I’m going to break my own rule on only sports ads by collecting Pepsi’s ads through the years, from The Taste Test (which forced Coke to change its recipe) to Michael Jackson earning $5 million and Britney Spears getting $8 million. Always great music, always highly emotional and generally completely outside the norm.