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Sounds on the slopes

Feb 21, 2018
Global events and blockbuster ads go hand-in-hand, with the latest collection taking influence from the sights and sounds of the Winter Olympics. But what’s remarkable about this sporting event, is how music is not only of utmost importance to the advertisers taking part, but the athletes too. 

As the world watches in awe of the elite athletes on show, advertisers capitalise on an inspired audience with motivational stories, heightened by an equally motivational soundtrack – best exemplified by NBC in their ad for their coverage of the Games.  The poster girl is former gold medallist Lindsay Vonn, who takes centre stage in an inspiring ad following her journey on the slopes – from intimate home-video footage as a child skiing with her family, to the dramatic injury that kept her out of the 2014 Games, to her heroic comeback and eventual triumph. And it’s made all the more emotive with the backing of Alicia Keys’ powerful Girl on Fire – perfectly timed to choreograph with the montage of images. Under Armour on the other hand took a different approach to their Winter Olympics campaign with a pulsating piece of visually stunning CGI and chilling sound. In partnership with US Speedskating, the sports brand created a sci-fi-style, ice-sculptured speedskater, whose blades power over the ice with sharp clinks like a sword fight. The futuristic visuals and high-octane sounds represent the speed, skill and precision of the speedskating athletes.

But it’s not just advertisers that use the power of sound to increase the chance of success – athletes are regularly seen entering the stadium or warming up with their headphones on, steely-eyed and transfixed on the prize. But some athletes at the Winter Olympics are taking it one step further and competing while listening to their favourite tracks. It’s particularly prevalent in extreme sports athletes, and the preferred choice of youngest ever female gold medallist, Chloe Kim.  The snowboarder was at the summit of Phoenix Snow Park, fearlessly staring down the 1,050m track for the most prestigious prize in her sport – you could forgive a 17-year-old for having some nerves. Instead, she dropped in to the sound of Lady GaGa’s Paparazzi and scored a 93.75, which secured gold.

This combination of athlete and music is exploited by many advertisers during sporting events. Therefore, it’s no surprise that premium headphone brand Beats by Dre created a campaign featuring the stars of the Winter Olympics, adorned with their headphones, within a beautifully shot montage of their incredible training regimes.
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Whether athletes use music to avoid external distractions, calm nerves or psyche themselves up, it’s no coincidence that their favourite tracks help them enter the zone and reach peak performance. This evidence is supported by research from Matthew Stork, a PhD candidate from the University of British Columbia, who states, “there’s an innate human tendency to synchronise movement with musical rhythm”. This is perfectly conceivable when you see Olympic skiers and snowboarders gliding and somersaulting through the air with immense skill, control and finesse – and discover that they’re accompanied by a pair of earbuds blasting their favourite song.
Sport and music have become so intertwined – think Rocky Balboa, World Cup theme songs and Olympic adverts – that they’re a product of one another, and one needs to complement the other to create the desired emotional response. Together, they have the power to motivate, move and inspire audiences and athletes alike.