One of the stories of Rio Olympics 2016 has been the near-invincible Michael Phelps and a final swansong at his favorite stomping grounds, the Olympic Games. Returning from what was largely considered a premature retirement, the American swimming legend has set the pool alight in Brazil, winning five gold medals and one silver, thereby taking his career tally to 23 gold medals in addition to three silver and two bronze medals.
Now that we have well documented Phelps' exploits, it's a good time to discuss what goes into making him the athlete that he is. This advertisement from kit manufacturer Under Armour, which has gone viral on social media and has garnered over 10 million views on YouTube, attempts to do just that.
The ad looks at Phelps' gruelling training routine and workouts, trying to decode the reason behind his success. Set to the soundtrack of The Kills' hit number The Last Goodbye, the video features the way Phelps works out, the way he eats, the way he sleeps, even the way he goes about his unique "cupping therapy". The takeaway from the ad is the work that goes in behind the scenes to make an athlete like Phelps, the medal-winning machine that he is.
However, let alone making such a popular advertisement, even getting it up and running must have been a challenge for its makers, considering the marketing regulations in place for the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has in place a strict set of rules that prohibit brands which aren't official sponsors of the Games from endorsing individual or team athletes following their performances during the 15-day sporting extravaganza. The clause, purportedly inserted to avoid ambush marketing, allows brands to run the ads only if they don't mention words like "Rio" or "Olympics" and if they debuted at least six months before the tournament.
The ruling has been especially unpopular with smaller brands, who see this as a means of clipping their wings. Among these brands is Under Armour. But in order to get around Rule 40, the brand, which is incidentally backed by Phelps because it happens to be based out of his hometown Baltimore, has created a brilliant commercial, which doesn't mention the banned keywords even once. Accordingly, they debuted the ad in March this year, even aired it at Cannes, before airing it during the Rio Olympics.
In fact, so arresting was the ad that the swimmer himself broke down when he saw it for the first time. The company posted a video on its Twitter profile, showing the champion swimmer's reaction.
— Under Armour (@UnderArmour) March 7, 2016