Adidas is not sorry about its Canadian World Cup campaign

Who: Adidas Canada, with SaltXC for strategy, creative and production, Essence Mediacom for media.

What: A new “Impossible is Nothing” ad for the Women’s World Cup. It features Canadian soccer star Ashley Lawrence, definitely not apologizing for being driven to succeed on the field and, metaphorically, for defying some of the many antiquated expectations faced by all women.

When & Where: The campaign is running for the one-month duration of the World Cup across TV, as online and social video, along with some high-impact out of home.

Why (I): Adidas Canada vice-president of marketing Kelly Graham said that the company views the new spot as a continuation of the “Impossible is Nothing” with-a-twist campaign it started earlier in the year, with an ad featuring Canadian hockey star (and new mom) Natalie Spooner. That was followed by an ad with Canadian basketball star Natalie Achonwa around the WNBA game in Toronto in May.

Adidas asked Salt for another “Impossible is Nothing” spot for the World Cup, and wanted it to focus on Lawrence—an Adidas athlete since 2017—in part because of her accomplishments on the field, but also her work with her foundation, “Yes, she Canada” which in many ways represents the spirit of “Impossible is Nothing,” said Graham.

“It’s really about removing as many barriers as possible to getting girls into sport by making sure they have what they need,” said Graham of the foundation, which Adidas also supports with equipment and training gear.

Why (II): Beyond the fit for the brand, this is a good time to get behind women’s sports. There is growing interest and support for women athletics, but women still face challenges men don’t. And because it has long supported women’s sport, Adidas can both help drive more interest while benefiting from the momentum that has been building around it.

“Having these global stage moments for professional sports for women [like the World Cup and the WNBA game in Toronto] has also just helped us really amplify the message we’ve been trying to tell,” said Graham.

How: Visually, the ad juxtaposes shots of Lawrence’s gruelling on-field training with metaphorical imagery—like a pink-coloured tea party, curtains with butterflies—representing the expectations thrust upon women from a young age.

Meanwhile, in voiceover Lawrence is apologizing: “I didn’t become what you expected me to… and I’m sorry,” she says. She didn’t follow anyone’s blueprint, or sign up for a backup plan, and never stopped chasing the dream she deserved (as she knocks over a wall of faceless male mannequins in soccer uniforms).

“Yeah, I’m sorry impossible,” she says before staring directly into the camera to clarify how she really feels: “Not sorry,” she says with a quick smile.

“It’s Ashley talking to anyone who has had the stereotypical views on women—women and sports, and what women should do with their lives,” said Graham.

On one level, “Sorry, not sorry” is a very Canadian spin on “Impossible is Nothing,” she said. “Canadians are obviously known for always saying sorry.” But it’s also a way to show Lawrence overcoming obstacles and defying expectations. “And for not being apologetic about it. In fact, celebrating where she’s gotten to, and what she’s achieved.”

Canada vs. the world: Adidas also just released a global campaign for the World Cup featuring three rising stars of the women’s game alongside Lionel Messi and David Beckham (see it below).

It’s a great campaign, but Adidas Canada is putting all of its spend behind the Ashley Lawrence spot, said Graham.

“Adidas understands that local markets need to be able to lean into locally relevant athletes,” she said. “We’re a sports organization. And so we want to be able to take these global stories—”impossible is Nothing,” for example—and translate it to what it actually means to Canadian athletes.”

And we quote: “I think that there can often be the misperception that women’s sports only have a potential viewing audience of women and girls. And I don’t think that’s the case at all,” said Graham. “Women’s sports is just as exciting and just as nail-biting to watch as men’s sports, and so I think that viewership is just going to increase, which is fantastic.”


David Brown