If you are of a certain age and were watching TV at all in 1992, you remember Dan and Dave.
Dan O’Brien and Dave Johnson were two world class decathletes who were gunning for the gold medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.
Reebok, always trying to chase archrival Nike in popularity and market share, decided to make these obscure athletes in an obscure sport into superstars that would help sell a lot of Reeboks.
In 1992, the United States had two of the best decathletes in the world – Dan O’Brien and Dave Johnson. Reebok, which had just lost its brief advantage in the American shoe market over Nike, was hoping to make a splash. So they signed both Dan and Dave and, together with advertising firm Chiat/Day, came up with their now infamous “Dan and Dave” campaign, where fans were asked to root for either Dan or Dave in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona for the title of “World’s Greatest Athlete.”
With $30 million spent on the ads and an eight-month run that debuted with the Super Bowl, it will most likely go down in history as the longest running Olympic ad campaign ever.
Their market campaign, insofar as making Dan and Dave into household names, was wildly successful. Everything was lining up perfectly for Reebok to keep this campaign up all the way until the Olympics started in August.
Except whoops, Dan didn’t make it to the Olympics at all and Dave only won a Bronze. The title of “Greatest Athlete in the World”, at least for 1992, went to Robert Změlík of Czechoslovakia. The only time he ever won an international decathlon event.
After the Olympics, O’Brien retired from the sport, and Johnson left for Nike on his way to finally winning the Olympic decathlon at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
I thought about all of this yesterday when Canada beat the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team.
Megan Rapinoe, the best known of all U.S. soccer players, has been unavoidable over the last few years. She’s everwhere, particularly in Subway commercials.
Rapinoe of course got famous from her role as the spokeswoman for the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team in their effort to get “equal pay” for their efforts. This, as you have noticed, has become a bit of a cause célèbre among politicians, the media, and sports. Never mind the fact that the “equal pay” canard makes unrealistic assumptions about the popularity of women’s soccer compared to men’s soccer or that the broadcasting rights to men’s soccer are exponentially larger than those for women’s soccer, particularly as it relates to the World Cup.
Either way, Megan Rapinoe has been pushed down the throats of Americans as both the U.S. team’s best player (she’s not) and the face of a social movement supported by Democrats, the media, and Hollywood.
And during this Olympics, Rapinoe and the U.S. women’s team has:
Lost 3-0 to Sweden;
Played a scoreless draw with Australia;
Needed penalty kicks to defeat The Netherlands
Lost to Canada in the semifinals 1-0.
The one win in regulation the U.S. Women’s Team actually had was a 6-1 win over New Zealand, the lowest ranked team the U.S. played the entire tournament.
Hardly a great showing for the #1 team in the world.
Rapinoe and the U.S. women’s team looks like they got a little too focused on celebrity, endorsements, and political causes than they did on performing on the field. And it showed in their game play.
For Rapinoe and the U.S. women’s team, Dan and Dave should have been a warning. Instead, it was a prophecy.