StrawberryFrog Waiting to Exhale

Breathtaking is one way to describe StrawberryFrog’s new promotional effort for Asics’ Onitsuka Tiger, a retro line of sneakers that were originally worn by several gold-medal-winning Japanese athletes in the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The Amsterdam agency wanted to “capture” some of the athletes’ magic. Rather than indulge in overblown metaphors about rarefied air, the creatives went for the real thing: They chose to collect the athletes’ breath and package it in cans, called “Hero Breath,” that will be given out with pairs of the orange striped sneakers as part of a promotion breaking this month.

“The breath idea came about in classic last-minute style, at around 11:15 in a tapas bar,” says Scott Goodson, creative partner at StrawberryFrog. “We were looking for something that would encapsulate the spirit of ’64 and decided to take it literally. We started with socks and jockstraps but eventually came up with a more tasteful execution.”

The process was captured on film. A low-tech video now playing at shows Yukio Endo, the individual all-around male gymnastics champion at the ’64 Games, in what appears to be a doctor’s office. He’s asked (in Japanese, with subtitles translating) to close his eyes and recall his winning moment from the Games, as the doctor plays sounds of crowds cheering. He smiles at the reverie, then breathes through a tube into a plastic bag. A shot of the Hero Breath can appears, along with the line, “Contains winning athlete breath for instant glory.”

“The whole idea is to celebrate the glory and success of the Olympics,” says Goodson. “Tokyo ’64 was the best Olympics for the sneakers. What better heritage than to take the breath of the athletes themselves?” As for Yukio and his fellow competitors, “they felt honored to be part of the event,” Goodson adds.