Cannes Lions

Michael Phelps

DROGA5, New York / UNDER ARMOUR / 2017


1 Shortlisted
Case Film






2016 was an Olympic year and Under Armour athlete Michael Phelps was the most decorated Olympian in the history of the games. The 2016 Rio games were set to be a crowning finale to his unprecedented career.

However, Under Armour was not an Olympic sponsor, unlike its chief rival, Nike. This meant Under Armour couldn’t use the Olympic rings or even mention "2016,", "Rio," "games," or "gold." Additionally, it didn’t have anywhere near the same funds for advertising, so Under Armour would need to outthink rather than outspend its competitors.

We needed to find a way to stand out from the all the sponsored-athlete clutter that surrounds the Olympics and leverage Phelps to celebrate the brand’s ethos: Rule Yourself.

We found a new way in by talking to the man himself. In revealing conversations, we uncovered a different side to Olympic glory. For Michael, it was the time away from the spotlight that was most revealing.

Phelps’ success was the result of months and years of grueling work. It wasn’t just about training but about being disciplined in every aspect of his life. With the four-year gap between Olympics, Michael lived for the most part in prolonged training exile. It was an incredible story of hard work, determination and sacrifice.

By shining a light on this—rather than the medals and glory—we brought to life the brand’s POV and struck a chord with our core audience who know how much work it takes to stay at the top of your game.

Our idea was “it’s what you do in the dark that puts you in the light.” We told the story of Michael Phelps’ grueling training far from the Olympic spotlight.

Olympic sponsorship rules prohibited us from running ads just before and during the Games. We made the most of this forced head start by launching this powerful film in March 2016, avoiding Olympic media clutter and making a big splash early. We further amplified the impact of our spot with a film that showed Michael’s reaction and then leveraged social channels to fuel the conversation throughout the games.

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