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Q: What does it take to be a Paralympian?

A: There’s got to be something wrong with you.


Channel 4’s gritty Tokyo 2020 ‘Superhuman’ Paralympics campaign was genuinely stirring stuff from 4Creative, the channel’s in-house creative agency. It was based on the premise that to be a Paralympian, there’s got to be something wrong with you.


The implication was, of course, that you must be prepared for the blood, sweat, sacrifice and dedication demanded of a Paralympic athlete.


A human approach.


So for the 2020 games, rather than following in the same ‘super’ vein as previous Paralympian games campaigns, Channel 4 presented us with a more realistically human approach asking us to acknowledging just what these incredible athletes have to go through to compete at the games.


“We spotted an opportunity to present Paralympians in a way they hadn’t been shown before – by pointing a camera at the realities of their lives and, as with any elite athlete, the sacrifices they make in pursuit of greatness,” explained Lynsey Atkin, 4Creative’s exec creative director, on capturing the blood, sweat, sacrifices and dedication it takes.


Olympians in the making.


Made by Oscar-nominated Bradford Young, and set to a freshly-recorded version of Bugsy Malone’s So You Want to Be a Boxer? by Jay Prince, the film candidly shows various British Paralympians preparing for Tokyo, including Ali Jawad, David Smith, Ellie Simmonds, Jody Cundy, Jordanne Whiley, Kadeena Cox and Kylie Grimes.


With the Olympics being postponed due to the pandemic, the ad had been in development for 18 months and was filmed in mid-May 2021 over a period of two weeks.


To ensure the ad was authentic, 4Creative worked closely with the athletes, who helped to write the script. “Everything you see in the film was inspired by real-life experiences of the Paralympians featured, all of whom generously shared their stories with us,” said Lynsey Atkins.


As well as working closely with British Paralympians, 4Creative also liaised with the International Paralympic Committee, the British Paralympics Association and Scope, all of whom provided invaluable insight and guidance in shaping the campaign.


It’s not rude to stare.


Channel 4’s outdoor and print campaign followed the same vein, turning the social stigma of ‘not staring’ into something positive, with ads proclaiming ‘It’s rude not to stare’, along with ‘like the Olympic 800m, but faster’, and ‘Sub 2hr marathons? We do those sitting down’.


This was all great stuff, using superbly garish colours, together with copy that was both clever and provocative. The kind of work you wish you’d done yourself.


However you look at it, this is a wonderful campaign that focused brilliantly on the fact that being a Paralympian is more about mental determination than disability. Heroic and uplifting, you can’t help but be inspired by these super humans.


If you’re looking to win big with your marketing, why not get in touch with the team at Harrison Carloss? Contact the team on hello@harrisoncarloss.com or read about our latest projects for more inspiration.