What does it take to reach the Paralympic podium?

A Canadian Paralympic Committee brand campaign focuses on the "greatness" of Team Canada athletes.
CPC - Greatness Is Rare_2

The Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) is hoping to draw more eyeballs during the 2018 Paralympic games in PyeongChang.

On the heels of the Feb. 9 Olympics’ opening ceremonies, it launched “Greatness is Rare: Witness It,” a campaign that attempts to quantify the odds athletes overcome in returning home from the Paralympics with a medal in hand. The chances of being a wheelchair-bound Canadian curler and winning back-to-back Paralympic golds? Precisely 0.0000106%, according to one of ads. The odds of being a visually-impaired skier and taking the top podium spot? Slightly, if negligibly better, at 0.000011%, according to another.

The CPC campaign was developed by BBDO, its creative agency since 2010. It launched with the 30-second spot featuring Paralympic curler Ina Forrest, who defied the aforementioned 0.0000106% odds by winning gold medals during the 2010 and 2014 Paralympic games. The athlete will be aiming for her third medal in the upcoming games in PyeongChang.

In the commercial, Forrest practices her curling shot atop a drifting hunk of ice in the northern Canadian wilderness. Two other spots feature alpine skier Mac Marcoux and hockey player Greg Westlake, cast in similarly inhospitable environments. Shorter versions have been created for social and animated display ads. Accessible versions of the ads for blind and visually impaired audiences were also created to compensate for the fact that the commercials contain no dialogue or narration.

By filming the spots in northern B.C. and the Yukon and placing the athletes within the context of Canada’s rugged terrain, the CPC hoped to reinforce the campaign’s message of athletic “greatness,” says Martin Richard, the CPC’s executive director of communications and brand.

For now, the campaign has only been soft-launched. Richard says assets will become “more visible” starting Feb. 26, once the Olympics have ended, to catch viewers ahead of the Paralympics running March 9 to 18. The CPC has set its sights on attracting a large swath of Olympics fans by letting them know that the PyeongChang games only truly end with the closing ceremonies of the Paralympics.

Phase two of the campaign will bring increased attention to its “Witness It” call to the action, with creative aimed at informing Canadians about how they can access coverage of the games. The CPC has owned the broadcast and digital rights to the games since the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, but it’s the first time it has tied its brand campaign to the notion of being a Paralympic broadcaster. The deal, which extends to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, has the CPC leading a consortium of media partners that include CBC/Radio Canada, AMI, Sportsnet, Twitter, Facebook, Send to News and Videogam.

Richard says the CPC’s brand has evolved as people’s perception of athletes with disabilities have changed, citing a 2010 BBDO-led campaign ad with the tagline “Save your sympathy for her opponents,” as an example. During the 2016 Rio Olympics, the CPC’s campaign revolved around the idea of being “ParaTough.”

“The Paralympics was [once] a feel-good type of event in people’s eyes and in people’s minds,” says Richard. “We’ve really changed the narrative around [that]. These are high-performing athletes; they are the best in the world.”

The majority of the campaign’s media is being donated through its partners.

According to the International Paralympic Committee, the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games were the most viewed in history with a cumulative audience of more than 4.1 billion people.

With its emphasis on mind-boggling odds, the campaign echoes Toyota’s recent Olympics and Super Bowl effort featuring Canadian Paralympic alpine skier Lauren Woolstencrof. That commercial stemmed from the automotive company’s sponsorship of the International Olympic and Paralympic committees, as well as the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic committees.