Like other years that show the games, the London 2012 Olympics is already fraught with strange previews and commercials. Over the past four decades, the good intentions of advertisers has led to many funny television moments for fans. Thankfully, resources like YouTube mean that we can re-live weird historic Olympics ads.
Strange 1970s Olympics enthusiasm
With HDTV, we take satellite technology used in broadcasting for granted. Interestingly, significant sports television progress was made during the 1968 Grenoble, France Winter Olympics and Mexico City Summer Olympics. In Grenoble, ABC Sports first used the "magic of the early bird satellite". This allowed viewers to finally have the ability to watch overseas video the same day that it took place.
The big news ABC had for the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics was they were "sending two teams this year." The first team being the US Olympiads and the second being non-stop, up close, and personal coverage of the games. Like the 1968 Olympics, the lure of the 1972 Olympics was 70 hours of coverage on ABC that was in color. Of course, today we find it laughable that color television and same day video were tech-savvy selling points at one time.
Sadly, there are few strange commercials for the Olympics of 1968-1972. Thankfully, Brim Coffee, the official coffee of the 1976 Olympics, comes to the rescue. That year, both the summer and winter Olympics were held in the cold climates of Innsbruck, Austria and Montreal, Canada. Although Brim was a decaf coffee, the commercials depict an amped-up woman that says stuff like she is from another planet.
The strange Olympics ad trends of the 1980s
During the Cold War of the 1980s, the United States let down their guard enough to partcipate in the 1980 Olympics that were held in Moscow, Russia. The Coca Cola ad for the games was also fairly tame like all of the other commercials for that year.
Moving along in this decade, the 1984 LA Olympic Games seem innocent enough. The opening performance has teams in formation to make the symbolic rings of the Olympics. Then, 30 seconds later, a man blasts into the center of the field via rocket power. Clearly, the Olympics and their commercials were finally embracing the funny and campy nature that premiere ads still have today.
While the story line of commercials of the 1970s and early 1980s leaned toward dramatic acting, McDonald's progressed toward enthusiasm with their 1984 Olympics feature for lime ice cream. McDonald's continued to create strangely entertaining ads for the 1988 Olympics held in Seoul, South Korea and Vancouver, Canada.
Needless to say, the real star of 1980s Olympics commercials was Spuds McKenzie of Budweiser fame. This cute dog captured the hearts of America through his bizarre anthropomorphic 1988 Olympics stunts. While Spuds impressed with his careful acting and human director, the 1980s Olympics also brought a memorable wardrobe malfunction.
Twenty years of sobering Olympics ads dashed
During the 1990s to most of the 2000s, you will be hard pressed to find comical or strange commercial for the Olympics. Instead, the ads were usually honorariums that saluted these athletes in a way that America respect war heroes. In other words, there is about 20 years of boring Olympics commercials to sift through. There are a few humorous ads like the one created for the Sydney Olympics 2000 by McDonald's, but it is otherwise a sobering collection of videos.
Then, out of the blue, the United Kingdom takes the reins and finally makes watching the ads worth your time. Whether or not their London 2012 Olympics ads are directly influenced by "Dancing with the Stars", the entertaining moments are certainly apparent.
One of the strangest twists about the London 2012 advertisement package is the dramatic change in perspective of who the Olympian really is. For example, the 1970s to 2000s all had commercials that talked about current athletes or children that will become the future Olympians.
For the London 2012 Olympics, their advert called "Sport at Heart" encourages the general public to see themselves as the actual Olympian. Far from the chili cheese dog loving Sonic the Hedgehog Olympics commercial, the UK-targeted 2012 Olympics mini-film stars David Beckham, Dame Kelly Holmes, and a diverse array of British subjects that are all using exercise "on the road to success".
Of course, with this kind of contrast in modern commercials between America and Britain, it is clear that we will have many weird ads to anticipate during the 2012 Summer Olympic Games this year.