With the opening ceremonies to Rio 2016 on August 5th, we begin another once-every-four-years celebration of awesome stories. Face it, while the athleticism itself is impressive, half the reason you're watching gymnastics, fencing, diving, or track is because you read that article, saw that interview, or—yes—clicked on that commercial, to learn the backstory of one of the competing athletes. This week we have three different Olympic-related ads, and each one manages to find a way to illustrate and celebrate those inspiring stories. Just don't cry while watching beach volleyball. Onward!
What: A PSA for charity Donate Life America that raises awareness for organ donation by illustrating its redemptive effect on even the likes of Coleman F. Sweeney.
Who: Donate Life America, The Martin Agency, Speck and Gordon
Why We Care: Sometimes PSAs around certain issues can hit our cryballs or guilt button so often that we can get a bit numb to it all. But not Coleman F. Sweeney. This complete and total a**hole is the perfect spokesperson for organ donation.
What: The launch ad for Nike's "Unlimited" campaign, focused on inspiring athletes on their way to Rio and beyond.
Who: Nike, Wieden+Kennedy Portland
Why We Care: We saw it with "Unlimited Future" the other week, and even "The Switch" during the Euro 2016, and the spot continues Nike's impressive run this summer at forging emotional connections between everyday athletes and their elite superstar counterparts.
What: A look at social media, circa the 18th century, to show us that maaaaaybe our modern food photo obsessions are veering into ridiculous.
Who: Ikea, Acne
Why We Care: This just makes us all feel a wee bit silly, doesn't it? In the context of the past, our modern quirks get even quirkier. I mean, sure, those people would've thought regular exercise and child labor laws were pretty ridiculous, too, but you get the point. Either way, it's fun way for Ikea to make itself the fun-loving, creative realist among us.
What: The opening Olympic effort from Dick's Sporting Goods (DSG), continuing its great Contenders campaign, to show the grit and determination of these amateur athletes.
Who: Dick's Sporting Goods, Anomaly
Why We Care: A cool insight, expertly told. Who knew we all have 0.2 mg of gold in our bodies? Using that as a common point between Olympians and the rest of us puts a fresh spin on the traditional Olympic ad, but also in how it distinguishes how they differ from others. As DSG vice-president of brand marketing Ryan Eckel told me earlier in the week, "We felt the fact that there is a small amount of gold in every human body was such a beautiful metaphor for what it takes to pursue an Olympic or Paralympic gold medal. It simultaneously speaks to us as individuals, and connects us as humans to something that feels much bigger than sports."
What: A young Iraqi boxer named Abdullah gets inspired by the 10-person "Team Refugees" competing in the Olympics this year.
Who: UNICEF, UNHCR, Purpose, UNIT9, Lefty
Why We Care: We watch the Games as much for the inspiring stories of Olympic athletes as we do the sports themselves, But Team Refugees, who made their way to Rio without a country to support them, have a story that's unique even within that context. This spot celebrating track and field athletes James Chiengjiek, Yiech Biel, Rose Lokonyen, Anjelina Lohalith, and Paulo Lokoro of South Sudan, Syrian swimmers Popole Misenga and Yusra Mardini, judoka Popole Misenga and Yolande Mabika of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ethiopian marathoner Yonas Kinde, shows the inspiration of their stories is reaching far beyond Rio.