Equal toughness

Canadian Paralympic Committee looks to build excitement for Parapan Am by showing just how skilled the athletes are.


The Pan Am Games have only just kicked off in Toronto, but the Canadian Paralympic Committee is already looking to get Canadians excited about the next month’s Parapan Am Games, beginning Aug. 7. In a new campaign, the organization shows that, just because they are Paralympians, doesn’t mean they are less skilled or any less tough.

The lead spot in the campaign, handled by BBDO Toronto, takes the viewer inside the point of view of a competitive cyclist, from training right up to the race itself, until the perspective shifts to show it is all being done without legs, and the cyclist is Calgary Paralympian Jaye Milley.

A similar theme is expressed in the radio ads for the campaign, which cover swimming, wheelchair rugby and track, with a voiceover piling on each of the things an athlete needs to consider when it comes to the pivotal competitive moment, before revealing the lack of a leg or an arm. The print ads in the campaign take a slightly different approach, which highlight the fact that, even though an athlete at Parapan Am might be in a wheelchair or missing an arm, the same rules apply to them and the same skills are needed to succeed.

Parapan1The CPC has also been releasing short online documentaries, each one telling the story of a different athlete competing at Parapan Am. Milley was the subject of the first video on July 1, with new ones being posted every day until July 16 on YouTube and the #Paratough website.

Also on July 1, BBDO helped the CPC put on an experiential activation in Ottawa where able-bodied people could put their skills to the test in wheelchair basketball or a race. About 10 more of these activations are planned at various locations in Toronto, starting on July 21, and will run both before and during the Games.

“These supposedly able-bodied people are just pitiful compared to the athletes,” says Tim Welsh, SVP and director of content production at BBDO. “They are fun activities that also show how hard it is to do what these athletes do. It helps prove the message and bring it to life – that it takes a lot of toughness and skill to compete at this level.”

Even though the agency has worked with the CPC since 2009, this is the first time it has used this many platforms in a campaign, which have typically relied on only one or two videos and some limited print or radio.

Parapan-2“It’s a more integrated approach than in past years,” says Jeff Cheung, art director on the campaign. “There are a lot of great, powerful stories, and by spreading them across several mediums, we can get those out more than we would just over traditional streams.”

Although the theme builds off of the “It’s Not What’s Missing, It’s What’s There” tagline for the CPC’s Winter Olympics campaign, focusing on the individuals and the stories behind them is also what sets the work apart from past campaigns. Putting names and faces to the athletes, like one would for the able-bodied, household names competing in Pan Am, helps Canadians connect to the path that brought them to the Games.

“We also didn’t do a ‘montage’ commercial like we have before, so we were able to focus in on those individual stories,” says Rana Chatterjee, copywriter on the campaign. “They tell stories of the athletes and sport individually instead of lumping them into a singular group of Paralympians, and you get to really see the different athletes and the sports they compete in.”