"The idea of 'Sport Doesn't Care' is that sport is the great leveler," says Carlo Cavallone, ecd at 72andSunny in Amsterdam, of his agency's hard-hitting 90-second spot for Paralympics sponsor Samsung.
"Abled and other-abled athletes are exactly the same when it comes to competing," he tells AdFreak. "Paralympic athletes don't go to the games because they want to make a statement about their disability; they go because they want to win a medal. This is often missed in the communication about this event."
The spot pulls no punches, showing athletes faced with fatigue, pain, stress, the elements and burnout as they struggle through the rigors of practice and preparation that they hope will carry them to glory at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, starting March 7 in Sochi, Russia.
"We wanted to make this point to invite more viewers to follow the event, present it as a true, intense, awesome sporting competition," says Cavallone. The agency worked with Smuggler director Henry-Alex Rubin (who lensed 72andSunny's previous Paralympics work and co-directed the documentary film Murderball) to achieve an edgy mood that Cavallone calls "real, raw and pitiless. The last thing we wanted to be was tear-jerking. There's nothing to cry about here."
The tone is similar to Procter & Gamble's "Tough Love" spot from Wieden + Kennedy, which unflinchingly focuses on youngsters participating in sports with the loving support of their moms. The Samsung ad is more low key and gritty, showing the adult athletes balancing grueling training regimens with child-rearing and other workaday responsibilities.
"It is incredible that in 2014 we still see campaigns where other-abled athletes are presented as objects of pity, on one end—or supermen, on the other," says Cavallone. "Isn't that incredibly patronizing? We think so. They are just athletes and they really don't care about their disability."
That point is driven home by the spot's conclusion as a voiceover says, "You know what my real problem is? I hate losing," and the end theme flashes on screen: "What's your problem? Sport doesn't care."
Bottom line: "They've got a lot of problems, the problems every athlete has," Cavallone says, "but their disability doesn't count as one."