Adidas rolled out a Boston Marathon linked campaign called ‘Runner321‘ in late March pushing for neurodivergent athlete inclusion and championing sports authorities to make room for Down’s syndrome athletes in their sports.
The initiative calls for races to permanently reserve the bib number 321 for neurodivergent runners in a nod to Trisomy 21: a number significant in the Down’s syndrome community as it refers to Trisomy 21 – another name for Down’s syndrome.
The campaign debuted on 21 March, World Down’s Syndrome Day, and was promoted through digital/social video and PR.
The campaign is spearheaded by an ad fronted by Adidas ambassador Chris Nikic: the first person with Down’s syndrome to complete a triathlon. Nikic will wear the bib number when running The 2022 Boston Marathon on 18 April 18 Boston Marathon.
The central, 90-second anthemic spot sees Nikic outline why he is running the Boston Marathon this year and introduces the campaign’s concept that every marathon should have a Runner 321. The video starts with a fairly sombre tone with Nikic reflecting on the challenges of his childhood and how he rarely saw anyone who ‘looked like him’ in mainstream sports. Before the tone looks to a more upbeat, positive future with the race organiser call-to-action accompanied by a driving beat and uplifting music.
The hero spot, titled ‘Runner 321: Rebellious Optimists’ dropped across Adidas social platforms from 21 March.
The initiative has dual objectives: Adidas aims to make sport and athletics more inclusive and representative and position its brand around inclusion, while the Down’s syndrome community seeks to increase awareness and challenge misconceptions.
This athlete inclusion campaign was created by Adidas in harness with agency FCB Canada (which is also the creative agency for the Canadian Down Syndrome Society) and produced by Suneeva (with Director Jason Van Bruggen) as well as additional input from School Editing, Alter Ego and OSO.
“Running changed my life, but now I want everyone like me to see it’s possible for them too,” says Nikic. “This time I’m runner 321. Next time I want it to be you.”
“We recognized that inclusion in sport requires role models to show others what’s possible,” said FCB Canada ECD Andrew MacPhee. “The goal, starting with the Boston Marathon, is to have one of those role models in every marathon to show it is possible. It was very important to Adidas and to FCB that we maintain Adidas’ rebellious optimistic tone of voice. We were conscious of not creating a sense of otherness in the way we portrayed Chris. The work needed to showcase Chris with the same respect and stature as any other Adidas sponsored athlete.”
The spot closes seeking to direct viewers to Runner321.com: a section of the core Adidas wesite which offers further details about the challenge, including that: “95% of people with Down syndrome have trisomy 21 – a full copy of chromosome 21, leading to three copies instead of two. This number is iconic to the Down syndrome community and the reason why we celebrate World Down Syndrome Day on 03/21.”
The campaign was created for Adidas running by a team at agency FCB Canada which was led by Chief Creative Officer Nancy Crimi-Lamanna, Executive Creative Director Andrew Macphee, Art Directors Sally Fung and Leo Barbosa, Copywriters Sara Radovanovich and Cuanan Cronwright, plus Agency Producer Sarah Michener.
The production company was Suneeva with Director Jason Van Bruggen, Cinematographer Stuart Cameron, Executive Producer Geoff Cornish and Producer Kim Mceniry.
The editing facility was School Editing with Editor Lynn Sheehy, Assistant Editor Fiona Alvarez and Executive Producer Sarah Brooks, while colour and VFX was handled by Alter Ego Colourist Andrew Ross and Colour Assistant Ebi Agbeyegbe, Online Artist Sebastian Boros, Online Assistant Nupur Desai and Producer Spencer Butt, plus audio house OSO with Executive Producer Hannah Graham and Producer Lauren Dobbie.
FCB Canada’s recent work for the Canadian Down Syndrome Society includes last year’s ‘Mindsets’ initiative: which was based around a study and awareness campaign about how physical exercise can improve cognitive function for people with Down syndrome. It was through this project that FCB learned about Nikic and then developed the idea for the campaign which it then took to Adidas
“[We] recognized an opportunity to bring Chris to Adidas as a sponsorship opportunity,” added MacPhee. “Our first project with Adidas was to facilitate and help create the first global sports sponsorship of a neurodivergent athlete. From there, FCB has worked on a number of other projects for Adidas, including Runner 321. “We are also working on a third initiative – the original idea we pitched to Adidas which we cannot talk about at this time.”
This campaign runs under adidas’ global #ImpossibleIsNothing brand platform which supports the German sportswear company’s belief that sport has the power to change lives.