Why Petro-Canada is celebrating coaches for the Olympics

Who: Petro-Canada with McCann for strategy and creative, Tam-Tam\TBWA for French, OMD for media, and Untitled for production (directed by Scott Pommier).

What: An Olympic advertising campaign that shines a light on the inspirational coaches behind some of the Team Canada athletes.

When & Where: The campaign started July 12 on broadcast (with a CBC focus), along with digital/social and signage at Petro-Canada gas stations across the country. It is running throughout the Olympics and Paralympics.

Why: One of the challenges with an Olympic campaign is that so much of the advertising uses inspirational messages and feel-good stories about the athletes and their achievements. Petro-Canada wanted McCann to come up with a way to differentiate its campaign.

In addition to being an official Canadian Olympic Committee sponsor, Petro-Canada also supports the Coaching Association of Canada. McCann determined that focusing on the relationship between athletes and coaches could be a way to stand out from other sponsor advertising running during the Games. “It seemed like a fresher approach,” said creative director Mike Shuman.

How: McCann wanted to show how much impact coaches have on athletes, and how their words and philosophies can  inspire and motivate. Each of the four 30-second ads opens with an athlete sharing the coach’s mantra driving them toward their goals.

The ads show the athletes training with their coaches, while explaining how important their words of encouragement have been to them. The athletes then reveal the coach’s mantra, recreated as an installation at the places where they spent so much time training together. (See the three English ads below.)

“We wanted to surprise the coaches,” said Shuman. “It was nice because the athletes were so grateful to surprise their coaches and wanted to do something nice for them.”

The coaches are not accustomed to being in the spotlight, so there’s a moment of honest emotion when they see their words presented back to them, said Shuman. “I don’t think that athletes and coaches express a lot to each other,” he said. “They’re working hard, and they have that coach-athlete relationship, and this is a moment where a bit of their guard drops, a moment to thank them from the heart. You could see it really meant something to the coaches.”

Each ad closes with the line: “The words of great coaches fuel great athletes.”

And we quote: “Coaches can help these athletes find another gear they don’t even know they have. A lot of these mantras are inspiring words for anybody. Whether it’s a job, or you’re in the gym, or you just need to push through something, they can be inspiring for any Canadian.” — Mike Shuman, creative director, McCann

David Brown