The Special Olympics

I’ve realised that the last few blogs have been about ads I think are super amazingly awesome. Well this simply doesn’t reflect my feelings about most of the ads I see, so today I thought I’d redress the balance by talking about an ad I think is ‘a bit iffy’.

Athletes with intellectual disabilities put in as much effort as those without, so why not support them just as much?

Don’t worry though, stick with me - I’ll go back to ads I think are super amazing awesome later on.

You see, Belgium is hosting the Special Olympics European Games this year, and naturally they want to get bums on seats for the occasion. Advertising is the way to do it, naturally.

This is what LDV United in Antwerp has come up with…

Now I quite like the initial germ of the idea, which takes the form of a question; ‘Athletes with intellectual disabilities put in as much effort as those without, so why not support them just as much?’

I think it’s an interesting and thought provoking question, one which leans the reader to automatically conclude that athletes at the Special Olympics deserve equal support.

However, that’s speaking in the abstract. After the knee-jerk reaction, most readers will quickly come to the sad realisation that spectator sport, like anything, is subject to market forces. And if the standard isn’t the highest, then most people will not pay to see it.

It’s a harsh reality. But a reality nonetheless.

To say that athletes in the Special Olympics deserve as much support as other athletes, because they put in as much effort, is unfortunately missing the point of spectator sport.

Also, there seems to be a kind of defeatist and cloying attitude towards the special athletes in the way they’ve executed the idea. I don’t think there’s any nastiness behind the ads, and I’m sure the people at LDV are all sincere and lovely. But basing the ads around the premise that Special Olympians' eyes look different, makes me uncomfortable. And to go a step further, it seems rather cheap and tawdry.

Overall I think the tone of the idea is a misstep because it tries to guilt people into attending the Special Olympics rather than inspire them.

For inspiration, I think the agency should have looked no further than the ads that’ve been created for the Paralympics recently.

Here are a couple of my favourites…

What makes these great is that they emphasize how incredibly impressive the athletes are. It doesn’t matter that they’re not as fast or as strong as the able bodied Olympians, because the competition still has tonnes of drama and tension, heartbreak and elation. And all the things that make sport wonderful entertainment.

Straplines like ‘Unstoppable’ and ‘Meet the Super Humans’ quite rightly glorify the athletes, and really make the viewer want to tune in and watch.

Now I know that the Special Olympics is a different brief from the Paralympics. All the same, there must be plenty of excitement and spectacle with which LDV United could have built a compelling montage. Through this, I reckon they would have got people to wanting to attend, rather than guilting them into it.

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