Campaign Strategy: Deconstructing distinctive campaigns: Special Olympics plays on true spirit of sport

There aren't too many professional sports leagues left untouched by drug use, criminal behaviour and huge ego. But the good news is Special Olympics Canada still embodies the 'true spirit of sport,' according to a new campaign from Toronto-based agency Grey Worldwide.

There aren’t too many professional sports leagues left untouched by drug use, criminal behaviour and huge ego. But the good news is Special Olympics Canada still embodies the ‘true spirit of sport,’ according to a new campaign from Toronto-based agency Grey Worldwide.

The 60-second spot from Grey, the not-for-profit’s AOR since 1998, juxtaposes moving images of Special Olympians with negative media sound bites taken in part from TSN footage. For instance, oft-heard commentary such as ‘the drug test has cast a shadow around the event’ and ‘controversy surrounds the athletes’ play over snapshots of Special Olympians celebrating their wins.

Having generated brand awareness with its previous tagline ‘Pure Sport. Pure Competition,’ particularly among athletes, the new positioning is also a ‘call to action to volunteers, coaches and sponsors,’ says Matthew Bielby, copywriter at Grey.

With a nationwide annual revenue of $15 million, the organization plans to increase its athlete count from 28,000 to 45,000 by 2010. It requires 1,200 additional coaches to support that growth, as well as other resources.

Having launched on TSN and in movie theatres at the end of May, the ad contains footage of exhilarated coaches high-fiving athletes, to emphasize ‘how the organization touches everyone involved,’ says Lea Parrell, VP marketing and development at Toronto-based Special Olympics.

Another goal of the commercial is to distinguish Special Olympics, whose athletes do not have physical disabilities, from Para Olympics, whose athletes do.

To that end, the creative includes footage of Special Olympians competing in a variety of sports, including weightlifting and gymnastics. There are no images of people in wheelchairs.

Although the organization cannot afford to conduct research, Parrell says day-to-day business has shown that people think of Special Olympians as having physical disabilities. ‘It’s about getting people to the right organization for them.’

Thanks to support from Grey and TSN, the advertising cost the foundation less than $1,000, she adds.

Client: Special Olympics Canada

Agency: Grey Worldwide

Creative directors: Marc Stoiber, Rick Kemp

Copywriters: Matt Bielby, Sam Cerullo

Art directors: Sam Cerullo, Matt Bielby

Editor: Steve Manz, Relish

Music: Robert Armes, Pirate

Post: Spin