The celebration of the world’s greatest athletes often ends with the closing ceremony of each Olympics. But P&G was determined that the global spotlight at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London wouldn’t dim until after the Paralympics closed a month later in September. How to keep the momentum going? Bring in a mom—or in this case, a mum.
The “Proud Sponsor of Mum” campaign set out to do a world’s first: Have a mother award her victorious child a gold medal. On September 3, the world watched as P&G mum Catherine McKillop walked out from the tunnel toward her stunned son Michael who was standing on the podium waiting to receive his gold medal for winning the 1,500-meter race. Son, mother and the world teared up as Catherine and Michael fell into each other’s arms as she presented him the gold.
Staging this unprecedented moment was a feat of Olympic proportion as well. The Games Organizing Committee had to be convinced. Managing key stakeholders, including the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), Paralympics Ireland, media and the McKillop family, to keep the surprise added to this extraordinary challenge, and of course, it all hinged on Michael actually winning gold. There were many logistical hurdles to run before this would happen. P&G had no direct relationship with the International Paralympic Committee before this, so the first step was cultivating a mutually beneficial connection to ensure the success of the “mum” idea, and buy-in from the organization and participating athlete family.
P&G, who was a partner of the Irish team going to the Olympics, led the effort, bringing together athletes from that team and the Irish Paralympic contingent of which Michael was a member. Michael was a favorite to win the 1,500—and what made the McKillops an even better choice was the fact his mother was a former athlete as well.
P&G launched a media campaign in which they promoted Michael’s hard work and the encouragement he received from his mum. After tipping off the press to pay special attention to the 1,500, P&G followed up the presentation with a national media effort to make sure the mum-and-son moment brought the special attention the Paralympics deserves. “The global footprint of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is simply incredible,” Liz Kennedy, brand manager for P&G Ireland, explained. “It allowed us at P&G to work alongside elite athletes and their families—and to create for them a real stand-out moment.”