Canadian Paralympic Stars Face the Elements in Fantastic (and Frosty) Ads From BBDO

Users are invited to broadcast the Games on their social feeds

Some commercial shoots are fun-in-the-sun junkets more akin to client-financed tropical vacations than actual work.

This wasn’t one of them.

The crew from BBDO Toronto and production house Asymetric braved brutal conditions in the desolate Yukon territory and northern British Columbia, with temperatures routinely dipping to 20 below, to shoot a series of visually stunning videos for the Canadian Paralympic Committee.

“Our athletes needed battery-heated clothing,” recalls agency associate creative director Matt Hubbard. “Lenses froze to cameras. And our drone refused to fly. The heated seats in our rental truck became our new best friends.”

Here’s wheelchair curling gold medalist Ina Forrest on an ice floe in a landscape of such breathtakingly bleak beauty that the ad might as well have been filmed on some mist-ringed alien world:

Brrrrr … our fingers get numb just writing about these ads!

“We fell in love with the locations because they provided a nice visual metaphor for our athletes: tough, isolated and rare,” Hubbard says.

Themed “Greatness is Rare,” the ads seek to boost viewership for the PyeongChang Paralympic Winter Games, which run from March 9-18, by forging a connection between average Canadians’ love for winter sports and the achievements of the Paralympians. For example, in the Forrest spot, we’re told 0.97 percent of Canadians curl (that’s more than 360,000, eh!) but only 0.00001067 do it in a wheelchair and win back-to-back gold medals. (That would be Forrest. She’s the only one. Rare indeed.)

Alpine skier Mac Marcoux and sled hockey player Greg Westlake star in similar spots below:

Contrast this approach with Britain’s Channel 4 and its award-winning promos for the 2016 Paralympic Summer Games in Rio. In that effort, the colorful, musical hijinks of the Paralympians spoke to their indomitable spirit and drive to overcome all odds. These CPC spots take an entirely different route but cross the same finish line in inspiring, hard-nosed style.

Kacper Larski’s epic direction exudes cinematic cool. He does a masterful job of keeping the Paralympians front and center in the midst of stark windswept wonder, encouraging viewers to feel the biting cold and pulse-quickening pace of their quest for glory.

“We were initially drawn to the raw, moody aesthetic of Kacper’s past work, most notably VW and Land Rover,” says Hubbard. “His use of natural environments to create scale and the feeling of isolation really helped to accentuate our athletes’ uniqueness. Not being a typical sport director helped, too.”

Forrest, Marcoux and Westlake all appear in the final spot, which tells us that “Greatness deserves to be seen,” and invites users to visit and broadcast the Paralympics from their social platforms:

On the microsite, folks select the events they wish to broadcast, and the competitions are automatically posted to their Facebook or Twitter feeds.

“Despite training just as hard or having athlete achievements just as great, the Paralympic Games have historically been overshadowed by those other games,” says Hubbard. “Unfortunately, this has also meant less media coverage. Which means fewer Canadians watching and supporting athletes. The idea of ‘Becoming a Broadcaster’ uses the power of social sharing to ensure as many Canadians as possible can witness greatness.”

Campaign Name: Greatness is Rare
Client: Canadian Paralympic Committee
Executive Director, Communications & Marketing: Martin Richard

Brand/Product: The PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games
Individual Spot Titles: Skiing, Curling, Hockey

Creative Agency: BBDO Toronto
Chief Creative Officer: Todd Mackie
Chief Creative Officer: Denise Rossetto
Associate Creative Director: Matt Hubbard
Associate Creative Director, Art Director: Mike Schonberger
VP Head of Broadcast, Agency Producer: Beatrice Bodogh
VP Group Account Director: Rebecca Flaman
Group Account Director: Tania Montemarano
Account Coordinator: Andrea Stranges
French Agency Producer: Julie Lapre
VP Strategy: Tom Kenny

Production Company: Asymetric
Director: Kacper Larski
Line Producer: Kyle Hollett
Director of Photography: Kiel Milligan

Editiorial: Married To Giants
Offline Editor: Monica Remba

Transfer & Online: Alter Ego
Online Editor: David Whiteson
Colourist: Connor Fisher

Music House: Grayson Matthews
Engineer: Vlad Nikolic development team
Project Manager: Melissa Hadley
Project Manager: Jason Dick
IA/UX: Trevor Shaikin
Developer: Douglas Glover
Developer: Jeff Sacco
SVP Technology: Jeff Sangster
QA: Della Lytle
Community Manager: Scott Douglas
Analytics: Arpan Rai

@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.