P&G’s Pantene China Olympics Case Study

During the Olympics, Pantene China, P&G’s shampoo brand, rolled out one of the largest digitally-led integrated sports marketing campaigns, securing strategic partnerships with leading search, social, and online video platforms Baidu, Sina, and Youku to become a successful case study for other markets worldwide.

In most markets, P&G could easily work with its global partners Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google to scale campaigns but these platforms have limited or virtually no presence in China.

Even while the Olympics Games were ongoing, the success elements of Pantene China’s digital tactics were benchmarked and influenced other markets’ promotional activities, Prasanna Kumar, director of team P&G for Greater China, communication strategy and planning at MediaCom said. This ranged from effective media planning to executing timely response-driven activities on social platforms.

Pantene China Olympic Campaign Background

Pantene was facing stiff competition in China. It was losing ownership in creating an emotional bond with consumers to competitors such as Unilever’s Dove.

P&G decided to leverage its status as Olympics sponsor to roll out a large-scale campaign in July to raise awareness and create deeper engagement with its audience – female consumers in the 25 to 54 year-old demographic from the first and second-tier cities in the country.

Executing an Integrated Digital Strategy

While there were various elements to the Olympics campaign, the agency emphasized an integrated approach. This meant that TV commercials on CCTV would drive viewers to search on Baidu that would lead to a customized app, which then drove users to its campaign site.

Because of the strategic alliance with key media partners – Sina, Baidu, Youku, PPTV, and QQ – the campaign achieved twice the media ROI delivery in the form of lower CPM and CPCs compared to regular online campaigns, Kumar pointed out.

The various digital elements used included:

Social: Pantene partnered with Sina Weibo (China’s 300 million member SNS) to build engagement and drove buzz through official real-time updates of Wu Minxia, the diving celebrity’s victories for her matches. For instance, it would post updates to encourage female fans to celebrate and congratulate the gold medal winner.

Online video: Instead of broadcasting TV commercials, Pantene aired 15-second mini-films on Youku, Tudou, and PPTV programs aimed at women. It also aired full versions of the mini-film including a four-part training diary series that was scheduled to run on a weekly basis for the month-long campaign.

Portal: For its campaign site, Pantene partnered with Sina’s female channel and one of China’s largest portals.

Search engine marketing: Pantene bought Baidu Brandzone and created a customized Baidu app on its SERP to drive users to its campaign site.

Although the campaign demonstrated an effective use of combining various digital platforms, Kumar (pictured below) advised marketers that “storytelling is still the most effective way to convey a message.”

His formula to increase campaign effectiveness is to “have relevant content and a strong theme to be distributed at the right time”.

For Pantene China, its tagline “Shining through the toughest test” was the hook to highlight its brand benefit/equity and consumer insight. It leveraged innovative mini-films and training diary videos as creative assets in the form of relevant content to promote the brand instead of regular TVCs. And finally choosing the right time to provide status updates through social and online platforms such as cheering its sports ambassador when she won the gold medal, he said.

Campaign Results

  • Pantene China Olympics campaign site received 7.6 billion impressions, 9.7 million page views, and total CTR at 9.1 million.
  • More than 1.16 million women participated in the campaign initiative.
  • Pantene China’s Weibo (microblog) fans increased by more than 41, 700 followers during campaign period.
  • Weibo promotion performance achieved 2.35 CTR compared to 0.12 in previous campaigns.
  • Its mini-films on Youku had a 2.76 CTR compared to 0.9 in previous campaigns.
  • Brand awareness rose to 20 percent from the campaign and top of mind awareness increased by 15 percent.

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