For the First Time, SK-II Is Advertising Around the Olympics

The P&G-owned skincare brand is betting big on Tokyo 2020

Simone Biles takes over Times Square for an SK-II activation. - Credit by P&G
Headshot of Diana Pearl

Key insights:

When it comes to the Olympics, Procter & Gamble has been a major presence for years. The brand is famous for its “Thank You Mom” videos that are omnipresent during both Summer and Winter Games, and has a roster of Olympic athletes on board as brand ambassadors across the CPG conglomerate’s properties.

But for the most part, P&G’s luxury skincare label SK-II has stayed out of the Olympic fray—until this year. At the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, SK-II will embrace its roots and advertise in the Olympics in large part because of the Japanese-born brand’s connection to the host city.

“We’re not associated with sports, per se, and our core target audience are not the biggest sports fans either. But we saw a really good fit because we are a heritage brand, and the Olympics are happening in Tokyo,” said YoeGin Chang, brand director for SK-II Japan. With the world’s attention focused on the city, SK-II is leveraging the opportunity to “start conversation that’s meaningful to our target audience.”

This week, SK-II rolled out its first Olympic effort, a preview for an animated series starring six different sets of Olympic competitors, including gold medal-winning gymnast Simone Biles, Chinese swimmer Liu Xiang, Olympic table tennis player Kasumi Ishikawa, gold medalist badminton duo Ayaka Takahashi and Misaki Matsutomo, surfer Mahina Maeda and the Japan volleyball team, Hinotori Nippon. The series has six episodes, each of which features a different Olympian tackling an element of “toxic competition,” which are trolls, image obsession, pressure, limitations, rules and machine-like mindsets.

Sandeep Seth, global CEO of SK-II, said the idea for the campaign—in particular, the “no competition” theme—came out of conversations the brand had with the athletes. The narrative nature of the campaign also echoes the sort of advertising SK-II has embraced in recent years, such as its Timelines docu-series, produced in partnership with Katie Couric, that explored the expectations women face around hitting certain milestones.

“We’ve been pushing the boundaries on what advertising should look like,” Seth said.

The decision to incorporate animation came in part because of Japan’s history with anime and manga, according to Seth, as well as to bring some levity.

“This is a very heavy topic,” he said. “Sometimes it’s very difficult to portray these emotions if you put real people in there, so creating the animation gives us the license to bring those emotions out in a way that brings the point out in a much more creative canvas.”

To kick off the campaign, SK-II, along with Biles, hosted a Times Square takeover where images from Biles’ episode were shown on its massive screens. And according to Delphine Buttin, the global leader for SK-II’s Olympic Games program, the #NoCompetition series is just the start of SK-II’s Olympic efforts.


@dianapearl_ diana.pearl@adweek.com Diana is the deputy brands editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.
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