A new Paralympic perspective

The Canadian Paralympic Committee and BBDO's high-intensity PSA aims to shift perceptions about disabled athletes.

Kicked off on Monday and ramping up during the Olympic Games, the Canadian Paralympic Committee and BBDO Toronto have released a new PSA geared at changing perceptions about Paralympic athletes.

The spot takes the viewer as close to the action as possible, starting with a small strip of footage that narrows in on a sport (such as skating, snowboarding, or skiing), showing off the extreme velocities and force required of the athlete. As the strip expands, filling the screen, it’s slowly revealed that these athletes are Paralympians.

“We wanted to focus on a perceived negative perception that people have about Paralympic athletes, and, starting with a very small part of the screen, literally force them into looking at the athleticism of these athlete,”  says Peter Ignazi, SVP/ECD, BBDO. “Look at how tough they are. How fast they are. How strong they are.”

This is a marked shift from last year’s campaign, which heroized the athletes, says Martin Richards, executive director communications and marketing at the CPC. While last year’s campaign was a bit more fun (actually making superheroes out of the athletes), this year they’re  trying to really hone in on the fact that they’re no different than Olympic participants.

“You’ll watch a sport on TV but you’ll never actually grasp how fast these guys are skating or [skiing] down that hill,” Richards says. “And that was the message we wanted to put across. We look at our Olympic athletes and think these guys are incredible. They push the boundaries. No one can touch them. And we wanted to make sure the viewers saw this [in] our athletes as well.”

The campaign, targeting at adults aged 18 to 49 (but trying to reach anyone who enjoys the Olympics as well as children with disabilities who might be inspired by the Paralympians), will run on various channels, including CBC, Sportsnet and RDS, as well as on Yahoo! Sports and Accessible Media, which will all air portions of the Games next month.