Michelle Kwan’s withdrawal from the Winter Olympics forced two major television advertisers who were featuring the figure skater in their campaigns to reevaluate their plans.
Coca-Cola has decided not to go ahead with one of its two ads that reference Kwan, while Visa USA is sticking with her.
A series of Coke ads that feature rabid fans cheering for their favorite athletes included one in which they were rooting for Kwan. The skater is not seen in the ad.
“Given that it’s cheering her on to win, hopefully, and she is not competing, we didn’t think the ad was still relevant,” Susan McDermott, a spokeswoman for the soft drink company, said Monday. Coke will simply substitute ads featuring other athletes in the spots.
Kwan and speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno had their names used in another Coke ad where an announcer says, “Without ice, Apolo Anton Ohno would be a speed-swimmer, Michelle Kwan would be a water-skater, and our Cokes would be warm.”
That ad will stay on the air, McDermott said.
A 15-second Visa ad set to debut on NBC Monday night featured footage of Kwan skating, illustrating the theme of “life takes poetry,” said Susanne Lyons, chief marketing officer for Visa USA. (MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)
Since it’s not tied specifically to the competition, Visa decided to go ahead with the campaign, she said.
“Maybe people will look at it with a little bittersweet emotion, but they will enjoy it because it’s a tribute to a beautiful skater,” she said.
Visa is hoping for better luck with some of its other featured athletes, including skier Bode Miller, who finished fifth in the men’s downhill but has other opportunities to compete.