BBDO, Toronto / CANADIAN PARALYMPIC COMMITTEE / 2022
Paralympians are arguably the most impressive and talented athletes in the world. Yet it wasn’t until Tokyo 2020 that the Paralympic Games were given prime time broadcast in Canada. The reality is, the Paralympic Games do not get the same attention and admiration as their Olympic counterparts. In fact, awareness of the Canadian Paralympic team was on the decline prior to this year’s games. Our challenge was to think beyond the under-aired Paralympic Games and find a unique way to drive inclusion of the para community in mainstream popular culture.
Objective: Move the para community from being in an unseen league of their own, to celebrating them with the same legitimacy as any high-performing human.
With a budget of only $26,000 (which went towards production), this program would not have the support of a mass media plan. We needed to earn the attention of Canadians. We needed free media.
While one of the world’s most beloved building toys has included figures representing emergency service workers, astronauts, and even science fiction characters, it has never truly reflected the para sport community. Until now.
The Para Expansion Pack: a new prototype to fit the world’s most beloved building toy. Expanding every set, for everyone.
Using the iconic minifigure parts as a base, we modified them to represent not only Paralympians, but anyone with a disability. The pieces include a short arm, shoulder, modified hand, short legs, walking stick, and prosthetic legs that can be seamlessly added to any existing minifigure.
The pack also includes adaptive parasport equipment with running blades, a blackout mask, racing wheelchair and basketball wheelchair. The wheels, axles, frames, chassis, and seating for the wheelchairs were custom designed to resemble the actual equipment and are also fully compatible with any existing set.
Years of experience have shown that in changing the status quo, traction takes time. Causing us to think: perhaps rather than directly telling adults why they should care about the para community, what if we could capture their attention by demonstrating that inclusivity starts at a young age? Afterall, the perspectives of children today shape the status quo of the world tomorrow.
With no media budget, our strategy was to root the idea in this insight and target those that help drive the broader news agenda. Those that create popular culture. So, we set our audience as news media outlets across the country.
Mindful of the sheer number of stories news outlets get pitched on the daily, we knew had to do something different that would capture their attention, compel them to want to share, and make it easy enough for them to simply ‘push play’ on the story.
With the Paralympic Games beginning on August 24th, we wanted to capitalize on the moment when the para community would be most top of mind. And more importantly, when our audience of news media outlets would be most apt to provide coverage. So, we began pitching media on August 23rd, with coverage of the Expansion Pack coinciding with the launch of the games.
Included in the pitch, we developed a promotional video that would heroize the community, showcasing the multitude of pieces, configurations, and diversity of figures that the expansion pack opened. Using that, we directly targeted news outlets across Canada with our innovative and progressive program, inspiring them to cover a historically niche topic, and make it a nation-wide part of popular culture. All coverage drove to a dedicated landing page within Paralympic.ca where people could download the 3D files to customize, design, and print the pieces themselves.
The Para Expansion Pack was a gold medal success, celebrated across 30 news outlets and earning 130,000+ video views and 3,200+ shares, including public admiration from athletes themselves. But this wasn’t just a Canadian win. The program was celebrated globally, with the site seeing visits and downloads from 49 countries. Even better, we saw over 10,000 downloads of various Para expansion items in the first two weeks alone. Bringing Para into popular culture and expanding the collections and perspectives of thousands of people, everywhere.
At the end of the day, people didn’t just watch and reflect. By sharing and downloading pieces for themselves, they made a conscious effort to include the para community in their lives.
The idea not only drove inclusion of the para community in sport, but also asserted Paralympians as role models in athleticism, health and wellness, inspiring and motivating people everywhere, regardless of their starting point.
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