Do Fathers Get a Medal in London?

The Olympics have been on for a week now (really, only a week!), and even with all the hub-bub over tape delays, people are glued to their televisions at all hours to see the world compete in everything from archery to wrestling (there was no sport starting with a z, boo hoo). It got us wondering, as we always do elsewhere, how the Olympics would honor dads.

After all, there have got to be a whole lot of Olympians that were coached by fathers, carpooled to their practices by fathers, or at least bought equipment by fathers…right? So, that should translate into viewership and consumers – meaning dads watching the Olympics with their little hopefuls, watching all of the ads, saying “son and/or daughter – tomorrow, we’ll buy one of those products in the commercial.”

Well, we watched, and watched, and then watched some more. At times, we were watching two events picture-in-picture on television, while streaming another on our phone and another on our computer (and another on our laptop)! We sucked up almost everything the Olympics put out there, except for the really long bathroom break we took during equestrian jumping.

We found: the Olympics have definitely been sold to mom this time around, but dad hasn’t been completely forgotten. Really, there’s been one big offender that’s forgotten dads, but we saw it coming and expected it. We’ll explain.

The Coverage

Obviously, we can only watch the Olympics through the lenses that we’ve been given, and so we get Olympian bios and commentary by Bob Costas and his band of merry men. We see plenty of stories about how Olympians grew up – but a lot of times, mom is the focus. Even when there was a father in the household, and even when the mother interviewed mentions the child’s father, we many times, don’t see him. We’re left to read about Olympic dads elsewhere. And thank god we did, because there are some great stories out there.

Did you hear about Sam Hazewinkel, who became a wrestler because his dad was one? Did you hear about Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen’s father, who is fighting detractors of his daughter’s Olympic talent? Did you know there was an Argentinian volleyball player who beat his own father’s team?

Chad and Bert le Clos

Chad & Bert le Clos: That’s father/son love, defined. Suck it, NBC.

Did you watch Bert Le Clos’ strangely emotional and incredible interview when his son, South African swimmer Chad Le Clos, beat Michael Phelps in the 200m butterfly by a fraction of a fraction of a second? Because you need to. We’ll wait.

If you’re watching the games and seeing coverage of loving dads in the stands, you’re watching different events than we are; the only one that immediately comes to mind is U.S. gymnast Danell Leyva, who was watched closely by his coach and father, Yin Alvarez.

Another fatherhood moment that’s gone viral was shared with mom – as U.S. gymnast Aly Raisman’s parents watched her uneven bars performance with hilarious results. (Also, Rick Raisman was on the Life of Dad podcast, which you can listen to here.)

You might have even seen our story about the father of 1992 Olympic runner Derek Redmond – 70 year old Jim Redmond – who got to be a torch bearer and carry the Olympic torch on July 2nd.

Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Timothy Douglas

Gabby Douglas’ father: Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Timothy Douglas, at a U.S. Olympic Team Trial

Did you even know that U.S. Olympic gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas has a father? Her mother, Natalie Hawkins, has been referred to as a “single mother” in broadcasts, and Douglas has even been billed as having “two mothers” – Hawkins and the Iowa mother who hosted Douglas while she trained away from home. You’ve got to know what to search for in order to find Air National Guard Staff Sergeant Timothy Douglas, who’s currently on duty in Afghanistan.

You might have read these stories elsewhere, but just by watching the Olympic broadcast, chances are, you’ve see a whole lot of mom. Was it a calculated move? How could such a thing be coordinated?

The Daily Beast contends that NBC has perfected the art of the mommy-cam. “Where once viewers had to be content with a passing shot—a tearful mom, a stoic dad—now the parents are miked up and plopped in front of their own devoted camera,” says The Daily Beast‘s Rebecca Dana. “NBC, eager to provide value to advertisers who’ve ponied up $1 billion for promotional time during the next two weeks, is wringing every drop of star power out of these women.”

Dana suggests that one reason for the amping-up of the mommy-cam is that it helps bring back emotion to a tape-delayed event that viewers learned the result of hours prior.

“The network doesn’t have ‘parent cams’ trained on the stands during every Olympic event. Moms and dads are featured only when they are relevant to the story lines,” The New York Times was told by NBC producer Molly Solomon yesterday.

Still, we’re left wondering – why so many moms, and so few dads?

The Advertising

Oh, right. The guys that pay the bills. If you’ve been watching commercial breaks, you’re well-aware that superpower Procter & Gamble is a proud sponsor of the Olympics Moms. Not only has P&G built a “Home Away From Home” in London for the Olympians’ mothers, but has mounted a giant campaign in support of, no doubt, the only parent that cares about their kids: moms. We know you haven’t seen it enough, so check out one of the commercials below:

In P&G’s, “To Their Moms, They’ll Always Be Kids”, it’s made clear that mom is the only one P&G’s after. It’s a shame, because as we mentioned, there are plenty of dads out there, proud of their children – with incredible stories. But dads don’t capture hearts according to P&G, who must also think they don’t buy Tide detergent, Bounty paper towels or NyQuil cough syrup (even though NyQuil manufacturer Vicks had a commercial last year starring NFL dad Drew Brees and his son).

“Let’s not forget the person that got them there,” pleads P&G. Why can’t the commercial say “one of the people,” and create commercials for some of the fathers who gave tirelessly for their children as well?

P&G answers Bruce Sallan

P&G answers Bruce Sallan about the lack of dads in their campaign.

Whenever questioned, P&G’s only response so far has been to redirect dads to their Father’s Day commercial. In the commercial, Gillette establishes the #HeresToDad tag. Since it’s an old tag, there’s nothing but a loud sucking noise and two tweets, one by yours truly.

BTW, P&G, who is currently licking toes (we call that shrimpin’ y’all) at the BlogHer conference, launched this mom-based campaign globally, with videos in their YouTube channel targeted to the United States (with worldwide translations for commercials), a “Momifesto” for South Africa (and translations for Latvia, Croatia, Lithuania and more), a Gracias Mamá campaign in Latin countries, and well, a ton of other videos. This wasn’t P&G deciding to honor the people that helped kids become Olympians. It was a heavy-handed gunning for mom.

Are we being silly? Making too big of a deal? Not letting mom have a moment in the sun? We always think that’s possible. But we’re not alone. This has also struck a chord with Steve Tilley of the Toronto Sun, who also said the P&G campaign rubs him the wrong way. “Where’s dad?” asks Tilley. “Don’t dads also get up early to take kids to practice, hold their breath when their kids compete and burst with pride at their kids’ achievements?”

We think so. But then again, 8BitDad is a Proud Sponsor of Dads®.

Coincidentally, P&G’s first run of commercials was called “Best Job,” and that also rubbed some folk the wrong way – and not just dad-bloggers. “There’s something simultaneously arrogant and exploitative about the incessant mantra that motherhood is the ‘best and hardest’ job in the world,” says Salon‘s Mary Elizabeth Williams. It turns motherhood into a title, says Williams – or a profession – and puts it on the level of other, well, jobs. Williams also roasted NBC for being “obsessed” with moms…to a fault.

The Rest of the Noise

While not being drowned in mommy-cam and P&G commercials, there’s been a couple of specific dad mentions by brands. First, one that came up just about the same time as the Olympics, from Google. You might remember that Google’s got dad in-mind; last year, they launched the fairly-cute “Dear Sophie” spot, and earlier this year, “New Dad.” Now, a spot called “Nexus 7: Camping” has captured our hearts. You can read about it in a post we put up today.

Subaru is another company that’s been aces for dads, with spots like “The Apple and the Tree,” “200,000 Miles,” and the Emmy-nominated “Baby Driver.” Subaru’s back with another father moment, this time with “Looking for Gold.” It wasn’t made specifically for the Olympics, but is still playing during the broadcasts, so it counts! In the commercial, a father chases down a rainbow for his daughter:

This is great little father-child moment, and we’re happy to see between rounds of the mommy-cam.

Chevy’s been gunning for fathers for awhile, and their spot, “The Question” has been playing during Olympic commercial breaks (even though the commercial was uploaded to Chevy’s YouTube channel last October):

Here, we see a block party, and a new guy in the neighborhood is asked by another man “what do you do?” With a look over to his Silverado, you get a montage of a million “manly” things like hauling lumber and paintballing, but also a couple of family and fatherhood scenes: one where dad band-aids a knee, where the father is playing chess with (presumably) his own father, and one of the dad singing “Bingo” on a car trip. There’s also a flash of a candlelight dinner with his wife, and she’s got a piece of pizza on her paper plate – which we love because it’s totally nailed-it parenthood, especially since the wife is smiling. If she was visibly angry, we’d go on our “men CAN cook” warpath. But, we’re softies for our wives smiling.

Moving along, another car company, Infiniti, has an old commercial playing during Olympic airtime (doesn’t anyone make commercials for the Olympics like they do the Superbowl?!). The spot, called “See the Invisible,” has not one, but two fathers: In it, one dad’s on a walk with his son while another piles into his car for a family night out. The Infiniti evidently…well, you just see for yourself:

We’ll take it. While it didn’t directly say “hey dad,” make no mistake – dads were written into the commercial because Infiniti wants to reach them.

Finally, dads will be featured in a whole television show – which usually goes…uhhh…well. NBC’s “Guys With Kids” has been featured in commercials during (and tying into) the Olympics for the last week. For the record, we can’t officially judge it yet, but it looks like it’ll have some banana peels thrown under dad’s feet. It’s too soon to tell, but our magic 8 ball says not to get our hopes up. It’s proudly billed as “from executive producer Jimmy Fallon,” which could mean a lot of things, since Fallon’s not a father himself.

And So?

How are dads doing in the Olympics? We’re alright. We could be better, if a giant deep-pocketed overlord like Procter & Gamble wasn’t shutting dads out so they could sell more maxi pads and detergent. But that’s marketing for you, isn’t it? They’ll target ads directly at moms, then wonder why dads aren’t brand-loyal.

What can we do? Boycott P&G? Nah. It just wouldn’t do us any good. But please, make some noise. Invite constructive conversation – and don’t let them off the hook for a little Father’s Day commercial for razors while they market the rest of the house to mom. Besides, mom’s not a slave to the home, even if P&G wants her to be. We shouldn’t be mad at P&G for not advertising to dads – they’re just following the money. But we should be annoyed that they treat mothers as if they are the only parent, and that what we should mobilize against.

Now, head on over to The Real Matt Daddy’s write-up on the P&G topic if you’re still fired up. He’s got a level-headed (and much shorter) discussion on the topic. Plus, we like him and you trust us for some reason.

BONUS: If you want to see Olympians hugging their parents throughout recent history, check out a slideshow from The Huffington Post – don’t tell P&G, but there’s a bunch of dads present.