Wheelchair Rugby, AKA Murderball, marks anniversary with brand revamp

Who: Cossette and World Wheelchair Rugby (formerly the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation).

What: A new name and brand identity for the sport’s governing body, coinciding with its 45th anniversary. It includes a new name and logo, revamped website, and an ad campaign featuring two-time Canadian wheelchair rugby Paralympian Zak “The Kid” Madell.

When & Where: The brand identity and website are live now, with a 30-second ad running throughout the Tokyo Paralympic Games (Aug. 24 through Sept. 5). A 90-second version of the spot will run on the Wheelchair Rugby Federation’s social channels, while the organization’s new logo will also be featured on referees’ shirts during the Paralympics.

Why: The rebrand comes as wheelchair rugby continues to grow in popularity. First created in Winnipeg, it was added to the Paralympic program in Sydney 2000. More than 30 countries—including Canada, the U.S., Great Britain, Japan and India—now participate in the sport.

How: The ad, “Here to Win,” opens on a young wheelchair-bound man being inspired to play wheelchair rugby after watching Madell competing in the fiercely competitive sport, which also goes by the name murderball. The spot alternates between footage of Madell competing and the young man rigorously training to become a wheelchair rugby player. It has all the makings of a typical inspirational sports-themed ad, but comes to an unexpected conclusion that is paid off by the closing super: “We’re not here to inspire. We’re here to win.”

“Our stories are usually told through the lens of either being a ‘superhero’ or ‘superhuman’; it’s usually coming from a good place, but it can be patronizing because it completely disregards the number of hours we’ve put in and sacrifices we’ve made to play this sport at such a high level,” said Madell. “Wheelchair rugby is a fierce and fast-paced game that’s played and watched by people of all abilities. But as an athlete, I want to be recognized for my desire to win, not just my disability.”

And we quote: “By showcasing the game’s competitive energy and the determination of the athletes, we’re showing a side of the sport that hasn’t really been highlighted in this way before. It sends a strong signal about the future of our sport and challenges people to think differently about disability.” —Richard Allcroft, president, World Wheelchair Rugby

Chris Powell