Oakley Forgives You (Even If Others Don’t) in This Lovely Ode to Athletic Obsession

A soaring soundtrack wants you to know, 'It's OK'

The campaign celebrates giving yourself over to athletic obsession, even the negative sides.Oakley

It’s OK to embrace your slightly antisocial and emotionally volatile tendencies in the pursuit of your athletic obsessions, says a new campaign from Oakley and AKQA.

Today, the sunglasses and sports-gear brand is rolling out the next big installment in its “One Obsession” platform, launched in 2015. This time, though, the campaign has added a fresh theme—”It’s OK.” And by “it,” Oakley means a lot of behaviors that might otherwise be frowned upon—the kind that strain romantic relationships, fray friendships, and mark people as the sort of self-absorbed types so concerned with achieving goals that they’ll probably become obnoxious to be around.

A 2:15 centerpiece commercial, for example, opens with a man quietly climbing out of bed and getting dressed before the sun has risen. His lover shifts in his absence, but doesn’t wake up. “You can breathe now, darling,” says a cooing voice-over, “As long as she doesn’t see you leave, it’s OK to sneak out.”

It quickly turns out, though, he’s not just a cad. He’s going for an early morning bicycle ride (or maybe off to the driving range). Cue a montage of athletes from various sports covered by the marketer’s wares—like snowboarders Chloe Kim and Ståle Sandbech, golfer Bubba Watson, cyclist Mark Cavendish, and alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin—as they throw their bodies and personal lives at the mercy of their true desires.

As the protagonists push themselves to their physical and psychological limits—suffering disappointments, hurling rackets in frustration, laughing through bloodied teeth—the soundtrack slowly builds from its beginning as a spoken-word lullaby to a soaring big-band-soul anthem about breaking the rules of grace and good health to put your ambitions first.

“Even if it is still dark, don’t look back,” says the lyric. “It’s OK to be in front if you’re on the right track, it’s OK to miss the first meal to catch your first wave, and it’s OK to ditch your friends on powder days. It’s OK to zone out, drift off, lose sleep over missed puts and air shots, and if it helps then you can keep cursing too. And it’s OK to swallow salt water when it’s swallowing you. It’s OK to say baby I’m stuck in traffic from the 17th green. Going up or coming down, it’s OK to change speed. It’s OK to be mad it’s OK to be wrong but you don’t need to vindicate anything for anyone. Whether you’re learning to fly or learning your lesson. It’s OK. It’s OK. It’s OK in the name of obsession.”

The campaign’s goal, says Oakley global marketing director Ben Goss, is “to encourage dialogue among professional and everyday athletes alike–enabling them to connect through the real moments of their journey.”

“For us, this next chapter of the One Obsession campaign does just that,” he adds. “It gets to the heart of committed athletes everywhere, not just professionals or those who compete at the highest level, but those everyday athletes who are obsessed with their passion. The campaign celebrates hard work and sacrifices in a light-hearted way.”

The original soundtrack’s blend of spoken and sung voice with jazz, big band and soul (coming soon to Spotify), was meant to create a “timeless” feel, he says. “The goal was to create a powerful, unique song that ultimately illustrates the passion and obsession that characterizes these committed professional and everyday athletes.”

“The lyrics of the track were written based on real insights and stories gathered from everyday athletes. We wanted the musical expression to be both intimate and grand, expressing the sympathy for the sacrifices and the great achievements that rise from it. We felt that the fusion of soul and classic big-band was the perfect match.”

The tune’s refrain—”It’s OK”—also graces a series of lighthearted print ads similarly granting permission to athletes. And for the hero video’s coda, the camera cuts to a kid on a toy bike pretending to rev the handlebars while keeping his eyes glued to a motorcycle race on the tube—because it’s best to hook them young.

Much of the work was based on a survey of amateur athletes, their motivations and the way their obsessions can change their personality.

Here are a few of the findings, per Oakley:
• 40 percent of employed athletes would rather excel at their sport than at their job
• 23 percent of employed athletes say their sport is more important than receiving awards or recognition at work
• 34 percent of athletes who have made sacrifices have let go of romantic relationships for their
• 29 percent of athletes who have made sacrifices think they have given up financial success for athletic excellence
• 51 percent have trained on their birthday
• 40 percent have worked out on major holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving
• Of those who consider themselves “committed athletes,” 21 percent say they would be ‘completely lost’ without their sport, while 15 percent simply ‘don’t feel like themselves’ when they are not doing their sport.

That all makes sense, insofar as focus is an important part of advancement in any field. Then again, Oakley obviously leaves out some easy compromises in your pursuit of obsession. If you’re going to sneak out of bed on your partner, is it really that hard to leave a quick note?

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