Imagine if, in his prime, Muhammad Ali laced up his gloves and stepped into the squared circle against … himself.
Cramer-Krasselt posits just this scenario in "Compete," a captivating 60-second spot for the new Porsche 911. The ad rolls out on TV, online and in theaters in the U.S. and Europe over the next few weeks.
The spectacle of Ali vs. Ali—staged to perfection using a pair of actors who float like butterflies and sting like bees—is only the beginning. The commercial also serves up Maria Sharapova competing against herself in a tennis match, and chess grandmaster Magnus Carlsen playing a tense game against—you guessed it—Magnus Carlsen.
This kind of stuff could put bookies out of business!
So, how does competing against yourself—a concept Gatorade used once upon a time with Michael Jordan—apply to Porsche? The extended metaphor suggests the only challenger bold and innovative enough to push the Porsche 911 to greater heights … is a Porsche 911. Against all the other existential self-competing, two Porsches race during the commercial to drive that concept home.
For some, the approach may still seem like a stretch. That's valid. But the visual bravado on display is more than enough to keep viewers engaged and, we suspect, spark a few conversations.
C-K creative chief Marshall Ross tells Adweek that the basic idea for the spot was inspired by the iconic status of the Porsche 911 itself.
"The 911 is the benchmark for every other sports car ever made," he says. "Every car compares itself to the 911. So the 911 doesn't look to outside brands for comparison and improvement—it looks to itself to create the best car ever made with each new iteration. This is the car to beat. That's a universal truth for all great champions: The person you really have to beat is yourself. You have to beat your demons, your own sense of limitation and conquer your self-doubts in order to conquer the world."
The commercial's accompanying subjects were carefully selected, too.
"The 911 has a tall stature in its field, so we went after athletes who also portray that tall stature," Ross says. "Additionally, we wanted to showcase someone who achieves champion status intellectually as well as physically. It's common to leverage athletic competition, so the world chess grandmaster, Magnus Carlsen, was a key element to emphasize the intellectual side of competition."
Getting the visuals just right was an especially tough challenge.
"The fighters had tracking dots all over them for the CGI—the special effects guys at The Mill did a really amazing job," Ross says. "There were 360 viewpoints all around so we would know exactly what the lighting would be, and they did an amazing job sculpting Muhammad Ali's image in CGI onto the fighters' bodies. The technical accomplishments of the spot, to get the fighters to look like and move like Ali, and even be expressive like Ali in a realistic way, is an achievement. This had to be more than good; it had to be great. We would spend days on a single frame in order to pass the freeze-frame test. We wanted it to look good in every single frame."
Of course, Ali—who has been in the news this week, criticizing Donald Trump over his comments about Muslims—is a paragon of pop culture who might leave even Porsche in the dust. So the team took special care to give the champ maximum props.
"We didn't want to just put two boxers in the ring and have them go at it," Ross says. "We wanted to accurately represent Muhammad Ali's boxing style. So we couldn't use professional or amateur boxers because it's too difficult and takes too long for them to unlearn their own unique style in order to adopt Ali's. Instead, we worked with two really good athletes—not boxers—and trained them for five weeks to become boxers."
The athletes were trained by Darrell Foster, who consults on Ali's fighting style for Hollywood films. "He trained them with specific leg and arm workouts and taught them punch sequences that were drawn from Ali's fights," Ross continues. "The two athletes we worked with were really great guys. They took the role very seriously, even though they knew their faces wouldn't be in the spot. They both said it was the coolest thing they've ever done."
The whole presentation is superbly staged, though the segment with the twin Alis is naturally—wait a moment more to fully savor the anticipation (though you surely knew this was coming)—the greatest.
Agency: Cramer-Krasselt, Chicago
CCO: Marshall Ross
Creative Director/Art Director: Rick Standley
Creative Director/Copywriter: Bill Dow
Agency Producer: Robyn Boardman
Group Account Director: Chris Hanley
Senior Account Executive: Cara MacLean
Production Company: Persuade Content
Director: Mark Jenkinson
Editorial Company: Whitehouse Post
Editor: Adam Marshall
Assistant Editors: James Dierx, Lauren Richardson, Joe Walton
Executive Producer: Joni Williamson
Producer: Jonlyn Williams