If you are a copywriter, producer, filmmaker, or anybody working in media, then this article should be old news to you. If not, then you’ve probably been living under a rock for the past six months.
According to Under Armour, the “Rule Yourself” campaign seeks to highlight one’s dedication to health, wellbeing, and—in an athlete’s case—his or her sport. Recent additions to this campaign include stories for US Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and the US Women’s Gymnastics Team, featuring Olympian Madison Kocian. The ads were conceived and produced by New York ad agency, Droga5. Under Armour’s latest Olympic spots hope to emphasize not only a sense of dedication, but also a sense of sacrifice and elation.
It’s a universal feeling, really: that through hard work and gritty determination, you’ll achieve your dreams. (I just call it Rocky-ism.)
Though these spots debuted in spring, they have earned a combined 13,762,200 total views on YouTube (and counting). According to Adweek, data shows the Phelps Under Armour spot is now the second-most shared Olympics ad for 2016. This same spot with Michael Phelps also earned the coveted Film Craft Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Lions festival, which—if you didn’t know—is the equivalent of the Oscars for advertising and public relations. So yeah, Under Armour’s not messing around.
So we have the data. But what makes these spots so successful?
Under Armour’s Phelps spot strikes the right emotional chord between a swimmer’s intense training and his equally intense desire to overcome his shortcomings from the 2012 Olympics. From his stoicism at breakfast to his frustrated splash in the water to his agonizing face as he bites back pain from cupping therapy, this ad beautifully depicts the range of emotions that come with hard work.
Phelps’s ad brings a surge of different emotions with a killer track from The Kills that perfectly depicts Phelps’s story (it’s the last goodbye, I swear/I have no regrets for the past is behind me/can’t quite see the end).
The most visually haunting scene, however, comes at the end. Phelps shivers in the night against the sound of a cheering crowd. Whether those cheers were memories from his past or from his future was left up to the viewer’s interpretation. All in all, this piece is just plain visual porn.
The US Gymnastics Team featuring Madison Kocian is a 90-second piece that contains the same “hard work” mentality as the Phelps spot, but with a more upbeat, catchy tempo.
The track from M.I.A. synchronizes perfectly from the beginning with the loud beat drop coupled with the team throwing down a mat, to the very end with a chilling scream and three gymnasts in the shadows flicking their heads toward the viewer with badass poise: it’s basically what gymnastics embodies. Other focal points in the spot include outstretched legs, bent calves, chalky hands, vault flips, and of course, Madison’s toned arms. These gymnasts embody feminine power—and you don’t want mess with them.
Though the Gymnastics spot did win at Gold Lion at Cannes for Film Craft, it is (surprisingly) less known than the Phelps spot. This could be because the Phelps spot highlighted a more personal story, since it focused on the Olympic swimmer. In contrast, the Gymnastic spot seemed to focus more on the whole team, with a bit more screen time devoted to Madison.
Each “Rule Yourself” ad continues to awe and inspire audiences while also building a sense of pride in viewers. At the end of each spot, the copy reads: “It’s what you do in the dark that puts you in light.” In other words, every ounce of effort you put in…counts.