Wake up. Open your eyes. Put on shoes. Train. Repeat.
That's the regimen we see aspiring Olympic pole vaulter Josh Dangel perform on a loop in Dick's Sporting Goods newest ad in the brand's ongoing Contenders campaign, created by agency Anomaly New York. But in addition to the running, the lifting, the pushing, the failing, the falling, and the getting up again, we see something else. We see Dangel helping a youngster try on a new pair of shoes. That's because in addition to being an Olympic hopeful, he's also an employee.
Back in March, Dick's CMO Lauren Hobart told Co.Create that the Olympic campaign purposely focused on hopefuls, typically far away from the sports marketing spotlight, to show that for every well-known athlete with lucrative endorsement deals, there are hundreds who are struggling to pay for equipment, pay for trainers, and make ends meet for their families.
For Dangel, his relationship with the brand started after he moved 2,200 miles away from home—from Cincinnati to San Diego—to train. He was in a new city and needed to find a job to help pay for his living expenses, but provide the flexibility to train and travel to competitions. That's when his roommate and teammate told him about Dick's Contenders program.
"For many of the Olympic events, the spotlight is only shown on them once every four years, and such is the case for track and field," says Dangel. "The sponsorships and endorsements are not really there for the athletes who aren’t national champions or returning Olympians. As a result, many of us have to struggle day by day to make ends meet, and often we have to make personal and financial sacrifices to chase our dreams. Dick's has truly done something special here with the Contenders program. Providing a flexible schedule and a source of income for the lesser-known but still full-of-heart athletes is a tremendous thing for a company to do. It really allows an athlete like me to focus on my number one priority, which training to hopefully represent Team USA in Rio this summer."
This focus on the unseen amateurs is consistent with Dick's recent marketing strategy, which has included content such as its Hell Week series and We Could Be King doc. Dick's vice president of brand marketing Ryan Eckel says it's in these athletes that some of the best stories are found.
"A lot of brands focus on celebrating Olympic stars, but to us, these Olympic and Paralympic Contenders who sacrifice everything financially, emotionally, and physically for a chance to represent our country are equally heroic," says Eckel. "It was our goal to not only equip and employ Team USA Contenders but to tell the stories of these inspirational athletes. Their stories are often not glamorous and can be very difficult, with many sacrifices along the way. But any athlete striving to make Team USA will tell you without grit there can be no gold, and this ad is a great representation of that."