Channel 4 puts the emphasis on ‘human’ over ‘super’ for dazzling Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games spot

Channel 4 has taken the Paralympians down from their pedestal to place them firmly in the realm of the sweat, grunts, tears, and triumphs that all athletes face in pursuit of Olympic glory.

And they’ve done it with a sense of humour: the payoff line reads, “To be a Paralympian there’s got to be something wrong with you” and the soundtrack is “So You Wanna be a Boxer?” from Bugsy Malone.

4Creative’s previous two “Superhumans” campaigns were much garlanded and — along with the TV coverage of the games — have had a huge impact on perceptions around disability, but they still managed to upset quite a lot of people by putting Paralympic athletes on a pedestal.

This ad more than meets those critics and, free from the obligation to establish any inclusivity credentials, brings a full three minutes of jawdropping entertainment to the screen by telling the athletes’ own stories, interspersed with the odd dream/nightmare sequence.

The duo behind the ad both joined in 2019 (ECD Linsey Atkin from Havas and CMO Zaid Al-Qassab from BT) so although they had a lot to live up to, they were at least free to take a fresh approach. It was directed by Oscar-nominated cinematographer Bradford Young, best known for his work on “Arrival” and “Selma.”

Atkin said: “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. Whether that’s defying medical advice, missing children’s birthdays, anxiety, repetition, getting endless blisters – collectively these choices paint a story of mental determination, not of disability.”

Channel 4 will broadcast more than 300 hours of Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games coverage, including a Paralympic Breakfast Show from the Channel 4 HQ in Leeds, a highlights show and overnight lives from Tokyo, and The Last Leg daily from London. More4 will be a dedicated team sports channel for the duration.

We’ve been waiting for a good Olympics ad, and it’s hard to imagine anyone else will do better than this.

MAA creative scale: 9.5

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