This Is Me – SK-II (P&G) & Tokyo 2020 (IOC)



IOC Worldwide partner P&G’s Japanese-based beauty brand SK-II activated around the pandemic-delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics through a social-first campaign targeting young Japanese women and fronted by swimmer and athlete ambassador Rikako Ikee which followed her battle back against leukemia to tell an authentic, raw story about overcoming challenges and provide inspiration during the challenges of Covid-19.


Territory: Japan


Agency: WPP Black OPS Singapore & Grey Tokyo (creative), MediaCom Singapore & VaynerMedia Singapore (media) & Huge Singapore






P&G is an IOC Worldwide Partner with exclusive rights to the ‘Personal Care’ and ‘Household Products’ categories for the Olympic Games through a global partnership spanning the five Olympic Games between London 2012 and Tokyo 2020.


This umbrella aim of the partnership is for the two organisation to benefit from synergies between the IOC’s Olympic spirit and mission to build a better world through sports and P&G’s philosophy of touching and improving lives with its portfolios of brands (which include Games rights for Ariel, Febreze, Pampers, Joy, Lenor, Pantene, h&s, Gillette, Oral-B and SK-II) running under the ‘Thank You Mum’ brand platform led by P&G’s Olympic athlete ambassador team.




Japanese cosmetics brand SK-II launched in the early 1980s (based on a compound derived from yeast) was bought by Procter & Gamble (P&G) in 1991 and is sold and marketed as a premium skin care solution primarily in Japan and across East Asia (as well as North America, Europe and Australia).


As an IOC Tier One sponsor, P&G included SK-II as one of the spearhead brands within its Olympic Games portfolio with a focus on activating in the Tokyo 2020 host market.


SK-II’s activation kicked off in 2019 when it signed a team of female athletic talent from across multiple sports to front its Tokyo 2020 marketing: marking the very first time that the brand had worked with influencers and/or endorsers from the world of sport. The stars then fronted a global activation called ‘Beauty Is #NOCOMPETITION’ which set out to challenge women to shatter toxic competitions in beauty.



But as the COVID-19 pandemic caused the postponement of Tokyo 2020 and an associated reworking of sponsor activation plans worldwide, SK-II pauised its core campaign and pivoted its Olympic talent team marketing to more tactical and local marketing initiatives included a Japanese campaign which aimed to inspire hope amongst its premium cosmetics buying female target during such unprecedented times.


The brand’s Japan marketing team briefed its agencies to create a positive, authentic campaign based around strength, resilience and inspiration and one which reflects the brand’s belief that ‘fate can be changed by its own will’ and it mission to ‘support women to take a step forward with courage and change their destiny’.





Working with the SK-II marketing team and partner agencies, WPP Black OPS Singapore and Grey Tokyo developed an activation called ‘This is Me. Rikako Ikee’ based around athlete endorser and Tokyo 2020 ambassador Rikako Ikee.


In February 2019, Japanese freestyle and butterfly swimming star Ikee (the 2016 Olympic finalist and 2018 Asian Games medallist) was diagnosed with leukaemia. After almost an entire year in the hospital, Ikee was discharged and began to slowly work her way back to fitness in the gym and the pool.


The SK-II activation – running through 2020 – sought to tell her authentic story of her struggle to overcome the challenge and return to competitive swimming to inspire hope for others during the tough times of the pandemic.


The agency set out to create a campaign based around the young swimmer to ‘give voice’ to an honest story of strength and resilience primarily spanning television and social media.


The aim was to create something genuine and to cut-through the usual beauty/cosmetics category marketing noise dominated by glossy, filtered images and sanitised stories.


The campaign was also informed by the insight that many Japanese young women do not reveal their true, authentic selves socially. Indeed, it is so popular for young women in Japan to only drop their guard and reveal their true selves on secret social accounts: 70% of all female social media users in Japan have more than one Twitter account.


There is even a specific term for this in Japanese: ‘裏垢/ ura-aka’.


So, while some of Ikee’s other brand sponsor post-recovery campaigns had featured her filmed and photographed in a wig and wearing her typical training tracksuit, SK-II chose to show a more genuine and raw Ikee: showing the sports star without her wig and without her swimming/sports muscles to show authentic imagery which would capture viewer attention.


The activation’s hero film launched in May 2020 and was simultaneously posted by Ikee and SK-II on their social channels (led by Instagram) alongside three personal portraits of the swimmer.



In the launch photo for the SK-II campaign posted on her personal Instagram, Ikee said: “Today, I will show you myself like this for the first time. These days, people around the world are having a tough time with all the anxiety. I’ll be happy if this message gives even a little hope for my fellow athletes and anyone battling similar hardships. Not having any hair isn’t something to be embarrassed about. Rather, I’m proud of my hair as it is. I’m proud of who I am. I wanted to be myself. As a swimmer, I don’t wear makeup and there’s no hiding your muscles in the pool. Now I just present myself as I am. I think when I get back in the pool, my true feelings will burst out. I’ve gotten over the hardest part and I’m on the road to recovery.”



These were supported by a dedicated campaign microsite which hosted personal messages and letters from Ikee, and an interactive photo diary exploring her hopes and challenges and aiming to provide some positivity and strength in adversity which consumers could relate to during the challenging time of the pandemic.


In an interview posted on the site, Ikee spoke about strength, being honest with herself and not giving up no matter how difficult things get. Just as she embodies the beliefs of our brand, she has carved out her own destiny.


“Thanks to everyone who gave me strength, my family and friends, and everyone who gave me warm support during my fight against leukemia, I was able to overcome my illness,” said Ikee. “Currently, the world is living anxious and painful days. I hope this message will be a small hope for my fellow athletes and for someone who is also fighting hardships.”





This campaign marked the first time in the brand’s 28 year history that a single female athlete campaign led to the brand and its message making the front pages of sports media and mass market newspapers across Japan.


In terms of organic earned media, the campaign generated:
> 41 TV news story pieces: including on Japan’s top 5 rated TV stations (NHK, Nippon TV, TV Asahi, Fuji TV, TBS)

> The campaign was a top trending topic on Japan’s 3 main social channels: Line News, Twitter and Yahoo! News


The campaign also generated record brand social engagement including:
> 300k organic video views across SK-II’s Instagram, Twitter and YouTube channels

> Historically positive engagement comments on K-II Japan Twitter


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