TD Ameritrade ads put new twist on Olympians' journey

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Posted: Tuesday, December 10, 2013 12:00 am

When athletic brands sponsor Olympic athletes, the connection is straightforward, since competitors are reaching great heights — and speeds — using the sponsors' equipment or clothing.

With a brand like TD Ameritrade, however, which has the far-from-Nike distinction of being the official online brokerage sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Team, making that connection can be a stretch.

But a new advertising campaign that features seven athletes whom TD Ameritrade sponsors draws a parallel between the competitors' lifelong journey to the Olympics and the fortitude required of long-term investors.

A new commercial opens with snowboarder Louie Vito, who is seen spraying Champagne from a bottle after a victory. Subsequent clips run in reverse, each receding further back in time, with Vito snowboarding backward up a hill in a recent clip and snowboarding as an adolescent. As the clips get older, they are family videos, with the competitor unwrapping a snowboard on Christmas morning when he is about 5 and blowing out two candles on a birthday cake.

“Behind every big moment,” reads a title card, “there are lots of small ones.” Now the snowboarder, who looks barely old enough to stand, snowboards down a sloping front yard and is scooped up by an adult.

“TD Ameritrade,” says actor Matt Damon, the voice of the brand, at the close of the spot, “helping you reach your long-term goals one small step at a time.”

Commercials featuring Vito and other athletes the company is sponsoring began appearing on television and online on Monday. Some moments in the commercials, including the closing footage of the snowboarder in the front yard, are staged, shot recently using actors in a grainy, home-movie style. The commercials, some of which use several clips with younger actors pretending to be the athletes, contain no disclosure about doing so.

The spots are by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, part of the Omnicom Group, with direction by Noam Murro and production by Biscuit Filmworks.

TD Ameritrade reports spending $239 million on advertising for its fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30.Dedra DeLilli, director of marketing and corporate sponsorship at TD Ameritrade, said that while the company was widely known for helping investors trade stocks on the go, the Olympics campaign was meant to “talk more about long-term investing tools and programs,” like individual retirement accounts.

“Athletes take a lot of small steps every day in the journey to make it to the Olympic Games,” DeLilli said. “As a brokerage firm, we feel that a goal of saving $1 million or $2 million can also be daunting, but there are small steps that consumers can take to make that goal not so daunting.”

One new TD Ameritrade commercial featuring speed skater J.R. Celski includes footage of him sprawled on the ice, which is splattered with blood, after a 2009 crash in which his right skate sliced open his left thigh to the femur.

Margaret Johnson, an executive creative director at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, said including such moments would resonate with investors who have weathered fluctuations in financial markets.

“There are hiccups along the way for both athletes and people who are investing,” Johnson said. “It doesn't always go smoothly, but you've got to keep your eye on that long-term goal.”

In what the brand is calling a first, it also is sending seven athletes, ages 14 to 21, to the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, in February, who are not competing but hope to qualify for the Winter Olympics in 2018. These next-generation athletes, as the brand refers to them, compete in the same sports as the sponsored Olympic athletes, who will act as their mentors.

TD Ameritrade set up brokerage accounts for these next-generation athletes, and once they arrive in Russia, every time consumers use the hashtag itaddsup, the company will add $1 to a fund that will be split equally in their accounts, with each receiving a total of as much as $25,000.

Conor Brady, chief creative officer of Huge, said brands often used social media “as a bolt-on to other channels” like advertising. But, he continued, the TD Ameritrade effort “is almost crowdsourcing to invest in the futures of these athletes.”

Joe Favorito, who teaches in the sports management program at Columbia University, lauded TD Ameritrade for highlighting athletes who hope to participate in the Winter Olympics in 2018.

“Most Olympics sponsors have shied away from that sort of a long-term approach,” Favorito said. “That's unique, but I guess the message to their clients is that, like the trading market, this is a long-term play.”

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