Interviews

Nathan Homer, Sports Marketing and Olympics Project Director, Procter & Gamble

Over the past 13 years Nathan has led diverse businesses across Western Europe for Procter & Gamble in their Household Goods and Beauty divisions, most recently returning to the UK to lead the Gillette business

Tom Holmes

Founder & Chairman

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Tom Holmes talks to Nathan Homer, Sports Marketing and Olympics Project Director at Procter & Gamble.

Over the past 13 years Nathan has led diverse businesses across Western Europe for Procter & Gamble in their Household Goods and Beauty divisions, most recently returning to the UK to lead the Gillette business.

He has been responsible for many aspects of the company's sports marketing including some of the Gillette brand's long running partnerships with global and local ambassadors and NGB's.

Since 2010 he has been the UK based Project Director for P&G's Olympic program leading activations across communications, retailer programs, employee engagement plans and goods and service provision with LOCOG.

 

Creativebrief: Nathan, as P&G Olympic Projects Director, what is your primary focus?

Nathan Homer: There has really been three areas of focus. Firstly, for the UK I have led the commercial exploitation both in communication and instore, most critically for the first time ever actively talking to consumers and shoppers as the P&G brand alongside all of our other brands. Using the P&G brand as an umbrella that can drive brand linkage – from say Ariel across to Pantene – with consumers is a major strategic shift to leverage our scale, and reflect the reality of the savvy world we live in where people want to know more about the company’s behind the products they use. We think we have a good story to tell. Secondly, I have had great fun using the Olympic partnership to drive organisational change with our employees at all our sites in the UK & Ireland. We haven’t changed what we wanted to do; we just used an amazing asset to make some of the topics far more engaging and enjoyable than we have ever managed in the past. The fact that we managed it regardless of whether the site was a manufacturing plant, research centres, distribution operation or commercial office with brilliant feedback makes me extremely proud as I don’t think many people realised that the partnership with the Olympics could deliver this. The third area was really to be the contact point for our global team on everything to do with London itself, such as with the Organising Committee or the London Mayor’s Office, to help set us up for running our Global Family Home in London at Games time to provide an outstanding venue for the athletes and their families to get together and relax.

Creativebrief: Over the past 12 years you have been responsible for many aspects of the company’s sports marketing, what are you particularly proud of and why?

Nathan Homer: I think I’m most proud of the “Nearest & Dearest” program we ran with Team GB and Paralympics GB to help the friends and family of the athletes understand what their athletes would go through on their journey to the Games, give them tips on how they could be the best supporters possible, and then help them to get to the events to see their athletes and to spend quality time before and after events with them in our private lounge in Team GB House. To get the feedback we did from the athletes and families who recognised it as an unheard of program they loved, and also from Clive Woodward (Team GB Performance Director) who said he was convinced “this will truly drive better performance and more medals” was incredible. The media coverage of over a billion impressions wasn’t bad either!

Creativebrief: Along the way, which marketers have impressed and inspired you?

Nathan Homer: One of the first senior planners I worked with, John Lowery, really changed the way I looked at how we brief agencies – and how we get to what we put on that piece of paper in the first place. He made me understand what inspires change in people’s actions, and I have always asked that question since when I look at what we think we have discovered. AG Lafley’s “Consumer is Boss” mantra hardly sounds mind-blowing, but when applied truly at every stage in the communications and product mix can be incredibly simple as a way to remind you how to assess what you have on the table. And I can’t leave the last 2 years without massively respecting both the Wieden & Kennedy and Channel 4 teams for their Olympic & Paralympic work – both epic and powerful reminders of why sport stands for so much more than simply the game itself.

Creativebrief: What trends do you observe in the current marketplace? Any predictions?

Nathan Homer: In the sports marketing world there has been a major shift of course to getting content that fans want to engage in through the new social media from athletes and players. As with everything some do it well (Nike) and most don’t. One of the biggest shifts is in what brands want from rights holders. The days of a few billboards round the pitch are long gone though, sadly, too many organisations still sell it like that. We need to see a shift to building partnerships vs selling sponsorships in the future.

Creativebrief: How successful a platform was the Olympic and Paralympic Games for P&G?

Nathan Homer: It’s too early to provide the results. After Vancouver in 2010 we delivered $100m in incremental sales and this time our target was $500m. In terms of brand awareness, again in Vancouver we achieved some double digit improvements in brand scores, trust in company etc. and we hope to make similar gains again. Our partnership with the Olympic Games is over a ten-year period and so our focus is the long term. London 2012 was certainly a great first step and has set a very high bar for us to build from.

Creativebrief: London 2012 was billed as the first truly social media games, how did P&G take advantage of this?

Nathan Homer: Human emotions, insights and experiences are the greatest tools a storyteller has. People were hungry for stories about the Olympic athletes and even more so about the Paralympians. We knew that behind every amazing athlete is an amazing mum, family and support structure, so we chose to focus on the stories behind their rise to success – What was Chris Hoy’s first bike? Why did Liam Tancock start doing the backstroke? Who got Jessica Ennis into running?  – and it worked beautifully.

And social media was a huge part of telling this story and our campaign. We utilised YouTube, Facebook and Twitter and coordinated the whole campaign during Games-time globally. Social media enabled us to tell the stories of the athletes and their families, and what P&G does to help them every day, in real time, and coordinated around the world. This is what Marc Pritchard, our Global Brand Building Officer, calls the ‘perfect storm’. Some of our biggest global adverts which were launched on social media before TV received in excess of twenty million YouTube views and were some of the most watched ads during the whole games. Our ‘Best Job’ ad was in the top 5 most watched YouTube videos of the year. We doubled our Facebook and Twitter followers by being creative in what we posted via the sites. For example, during the opening ceremony, P&G brand ambassadors Sir Chris Hoy and Katie Taylor were both flying the respected flags for their countries and we were simultaneously posting images and videos of this happening to our social media sites as well as photos of their mums looking on; generating thousands of ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’. We had more than 30 brands activating across more than 200 countries with over 150 athletes.

 

Creativebrief: How involved is P&G in the ‘legacy’ of the Games and what do you intend to deliver?

Nathan Homer: In the UK, we have joined Boris Johnson’s ‘Capital Clean-Up’ initiative, which involves removing graffiti off walls and generally giving London a good sprucing up. At a global level, we have committed to provide $25 million to support Youth Sport across the next decade. We’re working with Olympic Committees around the world to decide how and where to invest in the best way possible to encourage sport and healthy living at home. This will be different in each country but the objective is to help make a real difference in the lives of young people through sport.

This was the first stage in a decade-long, global partnership with Olympic Games. But, for the UK and London 2012, I think we will be remembered for the nearest and dearest programme. This was the first time there was a dedicated support and performance programme for the families and friends of our GB athletes and we’re very proud of what it achieved. We set out to help the nearest and dearest of Team GB’s Olympians and Paralympians to be the best supporters they could be – and I think we did that. We have some amazing memories and stories to share with colleagues around the world as the Olympics (and our partnership) move to Russia, Rio and beyond. Moreover, this was a performance programme by design and I’d like to think that we—in our own way—played a part in the success of our Olympic and Paralympic athletes at London 2012.

Creativebrief: What was the thinking behind your ‘Proud sponsor of Mums’ campaign?

Nathan Homer: Our first step into the Olympic movement came in 2010 at the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. We challenged ourselves to unite P&G’s purpose of touching and improving lives with the Olympic movement’s purpose of building a better world through sports. We knew we needed a big idea that united the common purpose of the two organisations and would allow P&G and our brands to find their place in the Olympic conversation. At first glance, we thought P&G and its brands have little to do with the Olympics, until we thought of this simple truth: behind every amazing Olympic athlete is an even more amazing mum and family. Mums are with their children every day and every step of the way, helping them realise their dreams. And P&G is in the business of helping mums… every day… and we have been for generations. From changing nappies, to brushing teeth; washing hair, cleaning dishes, doing the laundry, cleaning bedrooms; through to a favourite face cream, mascara or fragrance. This made our campaign relevant and natural. It resonated with people because it was credible.

Creativebrief: What agencies are on your sports marketing roster and what specialism do they deliver?

Nathan Homer: The key agency on our Olympic sports marketing roster is GMR who help across all areas of the partnership from athlete identification to transport to tickets to approvals and beyond. Their expertise as I see it is that they have both the knowledge of the Olympic landscape to help us whatever the area and they also seek real understanding of our business and strategies so we get fully connected input and support.  In addition we also use Platinum Rye for negotiation with talent and Sportsmark for event execution.

Creativebrief: Do you prefer to use local agencies by market or international/global agencies?

Nathan Homer: With a program the size of our Olympics partnership and a company the size of P&G with all our brands, we have to combine both global strategy and planning with local market expertise in execution, and our agency roster mirrors this.

Creativebrief: How do you monitor and stay-in-touch with the agency market to ensure you work with the best?

Nathan Homer: The secret of success between clients and agencies is partnership over the long term. We have a fantastic roster of agencies at both global and local levels with relationships built over time. We work as one team with one goal. These agencies know our business, our brands, our people and where we want to go and this approach has stood the test of time across our marketing and brand building disciplines.

Creativebrief: As you travel around the world, which agencies do you think are ‘hot’ right now?

Nathan Homer: There have been some amazing campaigns ran in 2012. It’s been a standout year for marketing. For us, I think Wieden & Kennedy have been a really standout performer across their work with P&G and other brands that I’ve seen.

Creativebrief: What are your top tips to agencies when presenting credentials to you?

Nathan Homer: My guidance for any agency pitching for any business with anyone is the same: Show you understand our business, and show how you can genuinely help us deliver that. I see far too many sells where I get told what they can offer but only a vague notion of how it fits to our business objectives or our consumers.

Creativebrief: Looking ahead, how will 2012 be remembered?

Nathan Homer: I see a lot of similarities between brands and athletes – some seized the moment and did things that were truly world class (Adidas and Channel 4), and some let the chance of a lifetime slip by and will look back with regret for a long time to come. The marketing industry had a great year with some truly memorable campaigns. The very best were rooted firmly in consumer insight and brought to life with real emotion.

Creativebrief: Looking forward to Rio, what are your plans?

Nathan Homer: We want to build further on the successes we had and to improve in the areas we saw opportunity to be better. It was our first Games as a global partner and we naturally learnt a lot about not just what to do but also how to do some things in a simpler and more effective way. And for us the Sochi 2014 Winter Games come first – only a year away!