USA Swimming Asks Kids to Trade Basketball for Cannonballs

Aims to improve low rank amongst team sports

A recent campaign from USA Swimming, which promotes participation at all levels in addition to the Olympic team, attempts to get kids back in the pool.

According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, swimming ranked 17th out of 24 sports for participation levels in 2013. The campaign from USA Swimming is an attempt to rekindle interest in the sport, and will be heavily promoted in August as students consider sports for the upcoming school year. Although they are competitors, swimwear brands Speedo, Tyr and Arena have come together as USA Swimming partners for the "SwimToday" campaign.

In one of the campaign spots, called "Cannonball," a girl splashes underwater in slow motion, while asking, via voiceover, "Basketball, softball, cannonball: which sounds the most fun to you?" The spot ends by prompting users to visit and displaying the #funnestsport hashtag. Another spot, "The Walk," emphasizes the confidence-building aspects of the sport via a slow-motion strut accompanied by a funk soundtrack.

Mike Caguin, chief creative officer of Colle & McVoy, Minneapolis, part of MDC Partners, responsible for creative duties on the campaign, told The New York Times, that "The Walk" was meant to counter the awkward self-consciousness that accompanies swimming for many children. "When kids think about putting on a tight bathing suit and being essentially half-naked, there is a bit of a stigma sometimes," Caguin said. "But we wanted to embrace it and say, hey, this kid is completely 100 percent comfortable in his own skin because swimming has given him that confidence and that swagger."

Matt Farrell, CMO of USA Swimming, was pleased with the tone and direction of the campaign. "This puts swimming more in the game than they’ve been in the past," he said. "If you want to attract kids, you want to make it cool, and you want to make it fun."

While Farrell acknowledged that emphasizing the fun aspect of swimming may find some giving up on the sport when faced with the most grueling aspects of training, he felt confident those who stick with the sport will find it rewarding. "If a kid joins our sport duped by the campaign thinking it’s all cannonballs, laughs and giggles they will find themselves on the soccer field much quicker," he wrote in a May blog post. "But if they give it a shot, hang with it for a few months and experience the culture of the sport, then I like our chances against any sport out there."