The first day at Cannes did not disappoint in the sought after inspiration department. After a somewhat bizarre and uneventful panel discussion between Martha Stewart, Mel B and Nick Cannon, which descended into who had the most Twitter followers and how dangerous it is for young people to share their well spent youth online, the Palais des Festivals audience were treated to a stunning case study on how to turn an awkward but very significant cultural issue into a masterpiece that championed worldwide perceptions.
Jackie Brock-Doyle (CEO Good Relations Group), Dan Brooke (Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Channel 4) and Ade Adepitan (Paralympian and Journalist) helped lead the team charged with bringing the London 2012 Paralympian games to light.
Dan Brooke likened the previous Paralympic games experience to a conversation that you were obliged to have every few years with your awkward third cousin at an extended family gathering. A pretty entrenched situation, with little hope of change for the better. After winning the Olympic bid (ten or so years ago) the LOCOG’s team turned the issue upside down and designed London 2012 for the Paralympians and then sat the Olympics within it. Everything was designed from the Paralympian perspective – from the construction of the athletes village to the staging of both games in the same venue. Both were world first initiatives. In the marketing world we talk about integration endlessly, whether it’s engaging audiences via multiple media channels or agencies themselves trying to be integrated, but this gave the term a proper perspective.
Turning down the BBC’s bid for media and marketing responsibilities was the next masterstroke. Channel 4, Britain’s alternative public service broadcaster, would allow for an innovative, youth driven, approach to the broadcasting. It was decided that over 50% of the presenting team would be former Paralympians with a deep knowledge in their area sporting expertise. The subsequent team demanded they be allowed to inject humor into their commentary thus further dispelling taboos.
Crowning these initiatives was Channel 4’s marketing of the games. “Superhumans” was never a term I’d associated with disabled athletes. But this campaign changed all that. Ade Adepitan, the former medal winning Basketball Paralympian, channeled the sentiment from the current athletes – they’d never had a Nike style ad made about them. “Just make us look cool' they said. The subsequent piece of film the team at Channel 4 produced delivers above and beyond, celebrating the fact their efforts are the same, if not greater, than other top athletes. The cut to how their disabilities came about is a brave if not show-stopping stroke of genius. Public Enemy as the backdrop is sublime. All this, Dan Brooke of C4 enthused, was produced in house. No agency required.
The launch saw a blanket media buy at 9pm across all broadcast channels in the UK, including the non-commercial BBC, threw the Paralympics front and centre in the UK public’s mind. The games sold out long before the Olympics even started. The viewing audience was up 250% from previous games and Channel 4 now has the rights to the next two games. A case study par excellence and not an ‘earned media’ statistic in sight.
Paddy Morahan is general manager of The Works