Special Olympics New York Pays Homage to Classic Nike Ads to Show Off Its Athletes, Raise Funds

Pro bono campaign from Edelman asks companies to imagine 'Your Brand Here'

Still of a Special Olympian
Special Olympics New York celebrates its athletes. Special Olympics New York
Headshot of T.L. Stanley

The stark black-and-white commercial is shot in slow motion and filled with feats of athletic prowess. The confident voiceover takes no prisoners, with statements like, “Around here, we only talk wins,” and “If you know you’re destined for greatness, who can stop you?”

Is this the latest sneaker campaign with LeBron James? Or a beer ad starring the Stanley Cup’s newly minted MVP, Victor Hedman?

Neither, actually. It’s a frame-for-frame homage to sports marketing from heavyweight brands like Gatorade, Nike and Budweiser. More importantly, it’s a plea for sponsors from Special Olympics New York, with the nonprofit celebrating its 50th year by unsubtly pointing out the disparity in corporate dollars that flow to high-profile professional sports.

The 60-second spot—pro bono work from agency Edelman—strips away logos from the three-star athletes’ shoes, water bottles and headphones, leaving room for “Your Brand Here.”

While basketball player Genesis Duran, gymnast Izzy Brinkerhoff and powerlifter Daniel Fletcher show off their skills—and game faces—the fearless voiceover continues. “Let me win,” the narrator says. “But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Special Olympics New York operates on revenue “equivalent to 0.03% of the nearly $30 billion” that brands spend on pro sports, according to the organization, which wants to see that number bump up to 1% to “triple the opportunities and support” for the state’s Special Olympians.

On a national level, there’s a blue chip roster of longtime Special Olympics sponsors like Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and United Airlines. But state and regional Special Olympics programs, such as those in Southern California, Massachusetts, Illinois and Ohio, have to build their own slate of brand partners, made more difficult by the coronavirus pandemic and economic recession.

“It’s clear that these Special Olympics athletes are total badasses, and everyone knows how effective a strategy it is for brands to associate their products with athletes that inspire, so it’s impossible to ignore the disparity in support that exists between Special Olympians and elite athletes or pro sports,” Jesse Suchmann, Edelman’s executive creative director, said. “As we saw Special Olympics programs being cut, we it felt like it was the right time to rethink how brands partner with Special Olympics New York.”

Credits:

Agency: Edelman

Creative:

CCO: Jimmie Stone

ECD: Jesse Suchmann

CD: Conor Hogan

ACD: Eden Lewis

CW: Grace Cha

AD: Madelyn Fetzko

AD: Esther Lee

Production:

EP: Ari Pomerantz

Producer: Gina LoPinto

Account / PR:

SVP: Gennifer Horowitz

VP: Evelyn Kroenlein

AS: Jon Salas

SAE: Melissa Connolly

Planning: 

SVP: Jeremy Busch

Lead Planner: Danielle Kellner

Comms Planner: Aly Blake

PM:

Peter Meiler

Business Affairs:

Hazel Popplewell

Ben Cadwallader

Director: Bobby Carnevale

Production Companies:

Chimney

Blue Chalk

Rob Finch – Creative Director

Sebastian Weinberg – Production Manager

Chris Janjic – Director of Photography
Whitney Bradshaw – Producer
Grant Flanagan – AC / Gaffer
Ruth Aravena – COVID Safety Coordinator / PA
Emma Decker – Assistant Producer
Amy Polansky Post-Production Manager
Jesse Crowell – Editor

Conner Lee – Motion Graphic Designer

Aubrey Moore – Assistant Editor


@TLStanleyLA terry.stanley@adweek.com T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.
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