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Responses by Mike Albrecht, creative director and copywriter; Jean George, strategy director; and Ryan Speziale, art director and creative director, The Hive.

Background: “The purpose of this campaign was to excite and engage Canadians around Team Canada at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, and we needed to employ athlete-centric storytelling,” says Jean George. “While the target for this campaign could have been all Canadians, we knew we needed to narrow down and better define the audiences we were looking to resonate with, so we focused on casual Olympics viewers and younger Canadians. This audience, especially younger Canadians, possessed the most pessimistic outlook of the country and overall had lower levels of Canadian pride than the rest of the population. If we could connect with them, we ultimately could increase the relevance of our campaign and increase viewership and overall support of Team Canada at the 2024 Olympics Games.”

Design thinking: “We knew we had to approach this Olympic campaign differently from a strategy perspective than in years past,” says George. “So much has happened within our nation in recent years, so to rely on traditional notions and symbols of Canadian pride to spark excitement for these Olympic Games would’ve missed the mark. We orchestrated focus groups, took consumer polls and conducted extensive research to get a pulse check on how people were feeling about life in Canada—and where, if at all, the Olympics fit into their view of modern life.

“What the team found was truly enlightening: Canadians are very driven by achievement, but within our nation’s current circumstances, they’re not confident they can reach their goals,” George continues. “While this strategic discovery was somewhat sobering, the notion of obstacles impeding success provided a very clear and powerful point of connection between Canadians and Team Canada Olympic athletes.”

Challenges: “As discussed, we were taking an athlete-centric approach to our storytelling,” say Mike Albrecht and Ryan Speziale. “Therefore, our creative needed to have our athletes at the forefront. While we couldn’t capture the entire team, ensuring we could get a diverse set of athletes coming from different parts of the country was important. And therein lay the most challenging aspect of the project.

“We needed to coordinate times to capture content from our chosen athletes during an Olympic year, so we were competing against their rigorous training schedules,” the pair continues. “To accommodate their schedules, we would fly to them and we were given a maximum of three hours to capture the content we needed. During this time, we needed to capture running footage, still photography and do an on-the-spot audio session with them talking about their stories of overcoming obstacles. That’s demanding for trained talent, let alone athletes. However, our chosen athletes rose to the occasion of the production process, which was brilliantly set up by director Hubert Davis and team as they met with each athlete beforehand to learn more about their story.”

Favorite details: “We are so proud of the collaboration our internal teams and partners demonstrated throughout all stages of the creative process,” says George. “The output turned out the way it did through teamwork and transparent communication. In turn, our creative idea was so strong it wasn’t hard to convince Michael J. Fox and Celine Dion to lend their voices to the campaign. We could not think of better representatives to deliver the message of our creative platform. “Lastly, we felt that it would be imperative to deliver the message of our campaign in an unignorable way to younger Canadians,” George continues. “Therefore, we developed posters and designed classroom-based exercises that teachers across the country could employ with their students.”

Visual influences: “The use of archival footage was a core conceptual element of our films,” says Ryan Speziale. “We wanted to really contrast the way we typically see our Team Canada athletes by using existing broadcast footage, then mixing those shots with more emotive and introspective moments that peek behind the scenes.

“From a design perspective, we wanted to project that bravery is a state of being and is an ever-evolving reaction,” Speziale continues. “And we felt the use of white and red aura could create an organic, free-flowing excitement of bravery and would best embody the unbeatable mindset of Canadian athletes. In static executions, we employed a gradient look, and in digital executions, we gave the aura movement.”

Specific project demands: “Having a firm date of the start of the 2024 Olympics taking place made it very clear of the work-back schedule we needed to enforce to deliver on the assets needed,” say Albrecht and Speziale. “However, this timing also meant a lot more restrictions and obstacles on how we would need to capture this content. For instance, we needed to develop content for the Summer Olympics, but this could only be done during the winter. Additionally, as previously mentioned, we needed to compete against athletes’ busy training schedules, since it is an Olympic year.

“As part of our visual approach of using archival footage, it was a great call creatively to tell the story of how athletes are presented to the world—but in turn, this created more lags in timing,” the pair says. “We needed to get permission from various outlets to get access to the footage and then receive their permission to use it, and this needed to be done for six different athletes.”


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