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4th Quarter 9:48

As Olympics near, P&G ramps up marketing effort

Procter & Gamble unveiled an ad campaign Wednesday featuring children as Olympic athletes, part of a marketing strategy built on the London games. Procter & Gamble says it hopes its overall campaign will drive $500 million in sales.

Procter & Gamble via Associated Press

Procter & Gamble unveiled an ad campaign Wednesday featuring children as Olympic athletes, part of a marketing strategy built on the London games. Procter & Gamble says it hopes its overall campaign will drive $500 million in sales.

NEW YORK — If a gold medal could be awarded for Olympic marketing, Procter & Gamble would surely be striving for it.

With the opening ceremony of the Olympics two weeks away, the world’s largest consumer products maker on Wednesday unveiled an ad that shows child athletes arriving in London and getting ready to compete.

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In the ‘‘Kids’’ commercial, a proud mom watches her son on the diving board and these words are posted on the screen: ‘‘To their moms, they’ll always be kids.’’ Then, an announcer says the company’s tagline: ‘‘P&G, proud sponsor of moms.’’

P&G is just one of the major companies that pay millions of dollars for Olympic sponsorships and marketing surrounding the Olympics in an effort to attach their names to the high-profile event.

The 2008 Olympics in Beijing was the most-watched event in US television history on NBC and its cable networks: An average of 27.7 million people saw the telecast over 17 nights on NBC. Companies spent $977 million in advertising during the 2008 Olympics, according to Kantar Media.

P&G, which was not a sponsor in Beijing, is trying to capitalize on those eyeballs this time around. The ‘‘Kids’’ ad is just a small part of the company’s efforts, which began in the spring. The company, which declined to disclose its spending on marketing, has a corporate campaign in addition to marketing initiatives with 34 brands ranging from Pampers to Duracell. Additionally, P&G is sponsoring more than 150 global athletes.

‘‘It’s the largest multibrand program we’ve ever done,’’ says Marc Pritchard, global marketing and brand building officer at P&G.

P&G expects the campaign to drive $500 million in sales. That’s much larger than the $100 million in sales the company garnered from its campaign at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the first time P&G was an Olympic sponsor.

But the stakes are higher this time around. Although the 175-year-old company has some of the most well-known brands in the world, including Tide and Pampers, it has lost ground to competitors such as Unilever.

And like many consumer product companies, P&G has been expanding internationally as growth in the United States and other mature markets slows. But weakness in Europe and uncertainty about the overall global economy coupled with high costs for commodities such as fuel and packaging, have led to lackluster results.

In its most recent quarter, P&G said net income fell 16 percent while its overall market share slipped 0.2 points, including a decline of 0.6 points in North America.

Now P&G is focusing on its most profitable markets such as the United States, Mexico, Germany, and Brazil, among other countries. It’s also scaling back on introducing new products in some emerging markets such as China, rolling back some price increases and cutting costs.

The company, based in Cincinnati, also is counting on its Olympics campaign to drive sales in its most profitable countries. P&G worked with retailers in those markets to create multibrand displays in stores, supported by television and print advertising. It also plans to air the P&G corporate television spots, including ‘‘Kids,’’ in these countries.

‘‘We designed the program to be global, to ensure that we would be successful in top markets,’’ Pritchard says.

In the United States, P&G’s corporate campaign kicked off in April with its first ‘‘Thank You, Mom’’ television spot. It also has a dedicated ‘‘Thank, You Mom’’ Facebook page and app that allows people to send ‘‘Thank you’’ messages to their mothers.

The company considers that campaign a success so far. It has had 19 million views of ‘‘Best Job,’’ a short film on the Facebook page and YouTube. ‘‘Kids,’’ which debuted on Wednesday on the company’s Facebook page, will air on television globally in coming days. It is also on the ‘‘Thank you, Mom’’ page, as well as YouTube.com

Many of the company’s brands also have campaigns. For example, Pampers diaper brand rolled out an ad in April showing babies climbing a chair as if it were an Olympic sport. It is also selling limited edition USA diapers and baby wipes in the United States.

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