Looks at Where the ‘Miracle on Ice’ U.S. Hockey Players Really Came From

Droga5 spot explores what it means to be American

On the eve of the Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, five members of the “Miracle on Ice” 1980 gold-medal-winning U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team reunite for an ad, reminding us that, in America, “Greatness Comes From Everywhere,” because our ethnic heritage is so diverse.

Dave Christian, Mike Eruzione, John Harrington, Rob McClanahan and Buzz Schneider don’t actually appear in the 60-second spot from Droga5, which consists of stylized footage designed to capture the power and passion of the game and achieve an archival effect.

Instead, the players provide the narration, recalling their improbable upset of the dominant Soviet team 38 years ago. Schneider calls that victory, en route to a final-round win over Finland, “the greatest upset in American sports history.”

“We were more than American…” Harrington says.

“I never realized we were from all over,” adds Schneider.

“Italian, Middle Eastern, Jewish, Turkey, Iran,” says Eruzione. “That’s what makes America what it is.”

It’s unclear who voices the cheeky kicker: “I didn’t know I was part Russian.” In fact, the five guys had their DNA tested through Ancestry, and the results showed that three of the players have Finnish/Northwest Russian roots, while two others can trace their heritage back to the Caucasus.

Schneider concludes: “And we all came together as one. That’s what made us champions.”

“With so much attention on American pride and athleticism during this time of year, we took a step back and came up with a creative idea that gets to the heart of where American sports heroes really come from, and what really makes them so great,” Ancestry CMO Vineet Mehra tells AdFreak. “We feel that this moment of great national pride is the perfect opportunity to spotlight the importance of unity and inclusivity, and encourage people to look into their own greatness, too.”

This is a medal-winning idea, stirring but not schlocky, and in keeping with Droga5’s other efforts for the client.

Still, some viewers might award the execution silver or bronze instead of gold. The speakers are never identified, and we’re provided with no information about their Carter-era triumph at Lake Placid. It’s not even clear we’re talking about the Olympics here. Are 38-year-old hockey heroics that well remembered? A big swath of the audience wasn’t even born at the time. (The ad won’t actually run during NBC’s PyeongChang coverage, further limiting context.)

All of this makes the historical set-up kind of vague. A few quick words of explanation flashed on screen would have worked wonders. OK, it’s not an official Olympic commercial … but still.

All that said, the underlying concept—the ad’s DNA, as it were—is strong. The mix of narration and visual storytelling still scores. So, the commercial achieves its goal, explaining just enough to deliver a thoughtful, timely message.

“We’re aiming to reach all Americans,” Mehra says. “We hope it resonates with and encourages people to explore their own ethnicity and look at the U.S. and its greatness in different ways.”

Client Ancestry

Agency Droga5 NY
Creative Chairman David Droga
Executive Creative Director Kevin Brady
Group Creative Director Justin Ruben
Creative Director Paul Meates
Creative Director Thom Glover
Copywriter Ted Meyer
Art Director Tommaso Fontanella
Designer Dan Pulito
Chief Creation Officer Sally-Ann Dale
Co-Directors of Film Production Jesse Brihn, Bryan Litman
Executive Producer, Film Tricia Lentini Himot
Producer, Film Anna Wright-Hands
Producer, Film Leah Donnenberg
Associate Producer, Film Lily Allen
Music Supervisor Mike Ladman
Director of Business Affairs Jocelyn Howard
Sr. Business Affairs Manager Shaunda Slade
Global Chief Strategy Officer Jonny Bauer
Co-Head of Strategy Colm Murphy
Strategy Director Tom Gibby
Senior Brand Strategist Ryan McDaid
Head of Communications Strategy Colleen Leddy
Group Communications Strategy Director Dean Challis
Senior Communications Strategist Kathryn Ruocco
Chief Intelligence Officer Amy Avery
Data Strategy Director Evan Fung
Junior Data Strategist Jenna Moorman
Head of Account Management Dan Gonda
Group Account Director Phillipa Campbell
Account Director Sharon Byer
Account Manager Taylor Berry
Associate Account Manager Tehjal Suri
Project Manager Sam Song
Project Manager Kareem Miller

Client Ancestry
EVP, Chief Marketing Officer Vineet Mehra
VP, Marketing Caroline Sheu
Executive Creative Director Paige Grossman
Director, Brand Experience DNA Mark Chiarcossi
Director, Brand Experience Family History Bill De Groot

Production Company Stink Films
Directors Jones+Tino
Managing Director Jeff Baron
Executive Producer Melinda Nugent
Line Producer Nadine Brown
Head of Production Nick Fuller
Director of Photography Franz Lustig
Production Designer Zuzana Sucha

Service Company Division Productions
Executive Producer Rok Bukovec
Line Producer Vlaho Krile

Editorial Cosmo Street
Editor (via Trim, London) Paul Hardcastle
Assistant Editor: Josh Berger
Executive Producer Maura Woodward
Head of Production Luiza Naritomi

Post Production The Mill
Colorist Mikey Rossiter
Color Executive Producer Rochelle Brown
Color Producer Evan Bauer
Color Coordinator Blake Rice
Color Assists Nate Seymour, Dan Moisoff, Elias Nousiopoulos
Executive Producer(s) Thomas Gibson, Rachael Trillo
Associate Producer Sophie Mitchell VFX Supervisor & Senior Lead Compositor Antoine Douadi 2D Artists James Cudahy, K Khanna, Sung Eun Moon, Taner Besen

Music Found Objects
Composer Jay Wadley
Executive Producer Jennie Armon
Senior Producer Matt Nelson
Track Title “Blue Line”

Sound Heard City
Sound Designer Evan Mangiamele, Elizabeth McClanahan
Mixer Evan Mangiamele
Executive Producer Sasha Awn

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.