Why Air Canada focused on living life for its Olympic ad

Who: Air Canada with FCB for creative, Mindshare for media, Scouts Honour for production (directed by Kevin Foley), with an original soundtrack by SNDWRx.

What: “Rise Higher,” new advertising that doubles as an Olympics spot and the airline’s first brand campaign since the pandemic grounded most air travel 16 months ago.

When & Where: The ad will make its broadcast debut during the opening ceremonies of the Tokyo Games on CBC Friday, but will run beyond both the Olympics and Paralympics, supported by additional social and digital media.

Why: The Olympics and Paralympics are an important opportunity for Air Canada, but their timing this year coincides with an easing of travel restrictions and growing hope for a return of some post-pandemic normalcy.

Air Canada wanted its anchor advertising to be more about life after Covid, although the campaign tag line of “Rise Higher” is equally applicable both to Olympic performance and celebrating the return of the joyous life moments that were delayed by Covid.

“This is our brand message coming out of the pandemic: Let’s inspire Canadians,” said John Xydous, director of brand strategy and content marketing with Air Canada. “It’s not so much an Olympic spot—even though there is a Paralympic athlete in the spot—as much as it’s a brand spot that is running during the Olympics.”

How: Rather than focusing on how difficult the last year-and-a-half has been, Air Canada and FCB wanted it to be more forward looking and positive about the special moments that are returning and, hopefully, will never taken for granted again.

The ad is an uptempo montage of special moments both big and small—dancing in a club, getting overdressed to go bowling, romantic first kisses and long hugs—with a narrator delivering a rousing call-to-action to treasure those special moments whatever they are: “Stay late, really late. Live your passion, leave an impression,” she says. “Don’t put it off. Because when we make it count, we rise higher.”

“We wanted high energy, high tempo, not thinking back on how difficult the year was, but more about how excited we are about the future,” said Xydous. “This is our rallying cry coming out of the pandemic.”

In the 60-second version, 40 seconds elapse before there is any overt reference to travel, and there isn’t a single shot of the plane until the closing scene.

“People are obviously very excited to get back to air travel, but we wanted to focus on more than that,” said FCB’s associate creative director, Nick Doerr. “What comes out of air travel is reconnecting with family, that sense of adventure, and spirit of seeing new things. We wanted to capture that, not just within the world of air travel but for life itself coming out of this period.”

Any concerns there aren’t enough aircraft in the ad? “We talked about that but we wanted to do something that’s very relatable to people, and have them get excited by the visuals, and wrap it up with air travel as a reminder of what also is to come,” said Doerr. “We wanted to show everything else that comes with this excitement of coming out of this period, along with air travel.”

Air Canada’s other Olympic activations include:

• Flying more than 740 Canadian Olympians and Paralympians to Tokyo onboard a 787 Dreamliner with special Olympic livery;

• With CBC, asking Canadians to share how they #FlyTheFlag or #HautLeDrapeau (the brand’s long-standing creative platform) for a chance at two round-trip tickets;

• People are also invited to take part in one of six “exclusive virtual experiences” to talk with athletes live from Tokyo;

• Team Canada fans will also have a chance to welcome athletes home in one of five Twitter Q&A sessions while the athletes are still flying home;

• Athletes are being given Air Canada care kits with Canadian-made travel essentials.

And we quote: “There’s one thing that I think we can all agree on that we learned over over the last year, and that’s this idea of the value of time. There are things in life you put off for good reasons or bad reasons… And being stuck at home for the last two years, I think we all kind of learned the value of time, of taking advantage of the moment and living in the moment a little bit more.” —John Xydous, director of brand strategy and content marketing, Air Canada

David Brown