By Keith Weir
LONDON, Jan 6 (Reuters) - With the Winter Olympics only a month away, Procter & Gamble - one of the event's leading sponsors - launched its main advertising campaign on Monday, seeking a more modest return than from the summer games in London 18 months ago.
The household goods company, best known for brands such as Duracell batteries and Gillette razors, estimated London 2012 gave it a $500 million sales boost, but is targeting around a third of that figure from the Games in the Russian town of Sochi, as fewer nations take part in the Winter Olympics.
"The Winter Games aren't typically as big as the summer Games," said Marc Pritchard, global brand-building officer for U.S.-based P&G, which joined the group of 10 leading Olympic sponsors in 2010.
The focus of the P&G campaign, featuring clips of sports such as skating and skiing to be shown in TV commercials and online, will be on countries where winter sports have large followings, including Russia itself, China, the United States, Canada, Germany and Poland.
P&G, the world's biggest corporate spender on advertising, waited until after Christmas before stepping up its Olympic marketing ahead of the Feb. 7-23 Games.
"For winter we found that it's best to start right after the holidays and then leading up to the Games," Pritchard said.
The company is again using the "Thank You Mom" message that featured in its London Olympic commercials, underlining the role mothers play in bringing up successful athletes.
The Games have focused attention on Russia's human rights record and in particular its attitude towards homosexuality.
Some U.S. activists have urged sponsors to boycott Sochi over a law that forbids the dissemination of information on homosexuality to minors, citing it as an example of intolerance towards minorities.
Pritchard believes the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will ensure the Olympics are not marred by prejudice.
"What we would expect out of the Games is that athletes should be able to compete regardless of their national origin, gender or sexual orientation," he said.
"We're fully confident that the IOC will ensure that these Games come ... free of discrimination."
The top sponsors, who also include Coca-Cola, McDonald's and Visa, pay around $100 million each over a four-year period covering a summer and winter Games for the right to use the five-rings Olympic logo and brand in their global marketing.