Woodinville High alum rubs elbows with Olympic athletes in London

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Courtesy Photo. Nick Pirtle
Nick Pirtle had his first exposure to the Olympics when it was held in Vancouver two years ago.

The 2006 WHS grad was attending college in Bellingham at the time and he and some of his buddies went to check out the Winter Games.

Though they didn’t see any events, they walked around town and soaked up the excitement and international flavor of the scene.

Little did Pirtle know that two years later he would be working at the Summer Games in London, having his own up-close and personal Olympics experience.

The young man’s journey began when he was offered a job with the advertising firm of Wieden+Kennedy in Portland after graduating from WWU.

“I’ve always been interested in advertising and marketing,” explains Pirtle. “I liked the creative aspects of the industry and how the work is always changing, which I knew would keep me interested and not bored. My favorite commercials were the Nike ones, and when I started to get more interested in this career path, I found out W+K did all of Nike’s advertising and were the ones that came up with ‘Just Do It.’

“It’s a great company that produces great work that people can recognize for companies like Coca-Cola, Dodge, Chrysler, Target and Procter & Gamble, to name a few.”

One of the most satisfying aspects of Pirtle’s job as an account executive for W+K is being able to see the results of his efforts on TV and online and feeling a sense of pride in creating what he hopes is socially relevant work.

In the past year and a half, Pirtle has been involved in Procter & Gamble’s “Thank You Mom” campaign, which W+K started at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. It’s an initiative based on the view that behind every amazing athlete is an equally amazing mom.

Pirtle, along with eight other W+K employees from four different departments (account, creative, digital strategy and studio) were sent to London for the Olympics to advance the campaign. It was the young man’s first time in England and he was ecstatic about the opportunity to be there during such a momentous time. He explains that Procter & Gamble hosted the USA Family Home for the Games, which is where all the country’s athletes and their families could gather together.

“They took over a huge building called ‘Vinopolis,’ right by the London Bridge,” says Pirtle, “and they turned it into a home away from home for the USA team. They provided lunch and dinner, multiple viewing areas with all the events on big screens, a Tide center to drop off their laundry, a Duracell station to charge any phones and computers, a Gillette and Old Spice ‘man cave’ to get a clean shave or play pool and foosball, a Pantene/Cover Girl Beauty Salon for moms to get makeovers and lastly, an area for the families to relax and not worry about trying to find a nice place to watch the games.”

Pirtle and the W+K team created commercials featuring the moms of several of the USA athletes, including decathlete Ashton Eaton and gymnasts Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber. The focus was on the mothers’ reactions to their son/daughter during competition.

In regards to website content, Pirtle worked with a copywriter to gather information for the “Thank You Mom” site. He interviewed athletes, moms and family members and wrote about all the different events that happened at the Family Home during the Games.

He was also involved with doing a case study video with a film crew from the company’s London office.

“The idea was to advance the campaign in a number of different ways  –  digital, social and broadcast,” explains Pirtle. “For digital, we created an online documentary series about the mom and athlete relationships called ‘Raising An Olympian’ for 14 athletes. The key ones were Ryan Lochte, Lolo Jones, Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber, Kerri Walsh and Alicia Sacramone. For social, we developed an application on Facebook that allowed people to either write a message or post a video to thank their mom and share with their friends. And for broadcast, we produced three different commercials.”

Though Pirtle was kept very busy during his stint in London, he was able to get away occasionally to see an event.

He attended one of Andy Murray’s tennis matches in Centre Court at Wimbledon and watched Maria Sharapova in action, too. The most memorable event for him though was the USA Women’s Soccer Gold Medal match.

“Our account team bought tickets to this event when we first arrived, hoping that the USA women’s team would make it,” comments Pirtle. “Sure enough they did and it was a rematch of the World Cup when they lost to Japan.

“This was the coolest game I’ve seen live. Wembly Stadium was unreal. It was huge, clean and just flat-out fun. There were 86,000 people there which set the record for attendance at a women’s Olympics event.”

Pirtle was in for another treat when he was given a ticket to the Men’s Basketball Gold Medal match one hour before tip-off. He jumped on the Tube and made it to the game in time to watch the USA play Spain and take home the gold. Seeing Kobe, Durant and LeBron on the same team was definitely a sight he says he will never forget —  add to that the excitement of being among a crowd of Ryan Lochte’s extended family in the “man cave,” watching as the swimmer raced for gold.

“The energy was tense and exciting,” says Pirtle. “It was such an awesome experience to be around.”

After the hubbub of the Games, Pirtle opted for some R&R in Barcelona, though he didn’t expect to do too much lazing around on his vacation. Ever the enthusiastic traveler, he was eager to explore a new city and have another up close and personal experience.

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