Droga5, Under Armour Take a Last Lap with Michael Phelps

By Erik Oster 

Droga5 focuses on Olympic swimmer and Under Armour endorser since 2010 Michael Phelps in its latest for the brand’s “Rule Yourself” campaign, as Phelps trains for the upcoming Rio Olympics which he has said will be his last.

The spot isn’t really anything you haven’t seen before from an anthem ad for a sports brand, showing Phelps’ grueling training as he prepares for the spotlight. And yet somehow it works better than most, striking an emotional chord many such spots aim for but don’t come close to reaching. The 90-second spot, set to “The Last Goodbye” by The Kills, opens on Phelps swimming in a seemingly never-ending pool. From there we see a bearded Phelps training hard in the weight room, swimming with resistance, soaking in an ice bath and undergoing the strange and painful-looking procedure known as “cupping therapy.” The spot does an excellent job of showing the grueling nature of the Olympic athlete’s training but also finds time to show him staring thoughtfully into a small pool strewn with leaves, perhaps at the Phelps family home in Towson, Maryland. 

When the spot finally concludes with the “It’s what you do in the dark that puts you in the light,” after a transition from a shot of training in darkness to a triumphant moment in the spotlight, it’s easily the best execution of the line in the still-young campaign, aided by the implications of Phelps’ upcoming final games. It helps that the spot arrives far enough ahead of the event that the story hasn’t been beaten to death already, which it inevitably will be. While last month’s spot featuring Team USA Women’s Gymnastics hinted at the potential of “Rule Yourself,” Droga5’s latest effort delivers on it and raises the bar for future efforts. The ad will make its official debut during an Under Armour event in Baltimore today, hometown to both the brand and Phelps.