There is always a lot of talk among Olympiphiles that there is an over-commercialization of the Games. As a passing but passionate observer in years past, I agreed with that point of view. Now that I have been to "the other side," I have to say that, while the Olympics are commercial to the nth degree, there are some sponsors who give nearly as much as they get back.
Enter Proctor & Gamble.
In Vancouver, P&G took on a huge task. They chose not to just plaster their name all over creation, purchase TV ads and sit out in varying forms of media as "a proud sponsor of the XXI Games." Instead, P&G created one of the most effective PR and marketing campaigns I have ever seen (and this is what I do for a living, by the way) and totally integrated it into what was a genuine sentiment that they personally backed up every day. P&G was the sponsor of "Family Home," a safe house of sorts for Team USA members and their families where we could have a place to meet, have meals (free, by the way), go on computers, have a place for young children to play, get much-needed foot, neck and shoulder massages, have hair and makeup done and - yes - they even did our laundry! The theme: "Thanks Mom."
This was not just an advertising slogan. They backed it up in every way imaginable. In all the years I have been doing marketing, advertising and public relations I have never seen anyone take a campaign and commit to it in such a caring, sensitive way. As one who is relatively jaded when it comes to these things, I was impressed. Family Home was our sanity. Every day, it afforded us a place to meet when we all went off in different directions. It was where we sat with other athlete families to either celebrate or console; it was where we met old friends and made new ones. It was a location of shared experience and one where we could sit quietly and just unwind on the large pillows in front of the movie-sized TV screens broadcasting all the events live.
I cannot overstate the importance of what this did for all the USA Athlete families in Vancouver. Whether seasoned veterans of the games, like our good friends the Klug family from Aspen (Chris' parents Kathy and Warren), or new friends like the family of Nordic Combined athlete Todd Lodwick, Family Home became just that.
So, thanks to the staff for making us feel welcome. Thanks to the hair and makeup professionals, the caterers, the laundry ladies, the babysitters, the computer staff. Thanks for helping us through our first Olympic experience. There's NO PLACE like home!