Many people gather together yearly to watch the Super Bowl. But many are not interested in the actual game. They want to watch the ads. Why? Because those ads, some of the best of the year, offer us the chance to feel something amazing, whether is humor or drama. For an ad to become viral, it does not need to portray all the details about a certain service or product. It just needs to touch us emotionally. Once it does, regardless of the actual technical details of a car or a web hosting service, the commercial has played its part.
During these Olympics, many ads have also offered us the chance to feel something special, from the inspiration of some of these athletes to the humorous comparisons between them and us, the mere mortals. In many instances, what we feel watching these ads sometimes surpasses the emotions felt during the actual athlete’s performance. The same occurs when TV stations put together the preview of a boxing match, creating the huge expectations of a fight with monumental music, angry comments, snippets of past performance and highligths of the contenders’ careers.
Those previews, just like the movie previews, carry the essence of our emotions, bottled in small, yet powerful quantities, like a tiny bottle of perfume contains the pure essence of some otherworldly aroma.
And that is exactly what happened when I watched the Phelps’ Under Armour commercial.
Mostly shot in the dark, the ad emphasizes that most of the preparation, the hard work, the sacrifice happens in the dark, when the others are still sleep. We don’t get to see those four years of prep, pre-Olympic dark ages that lead to the light of the cameras, the world’s attention and the podium celebrations. That ad transports us during a few seconds, making us feel part of the journey, of the sacrifice, the focus on the mere essence, forgetting about the clothes one wears and even forgetting to shave.
By traveling those seconds, we also feel part of history, of those medals obtained by the son of Poseidon, all for team USA, regardless of the personal struggles he endured in between the Olympics in London and Rio.
And when the ad runs, and we feel -even through the screen- any of those highly human emotions, the brand, the athlete, and even us, feel like champions.
The ambiance of the ad also inspire us, because it reminds us that when we close the door to focus on something, when we start the day before anyone else, when we put all our energies trying to achieve our goals, good things can happen.
Swimming at 5 am, the cupping sessions, the food we eat to fuel our bodies, and even the times when we visualize, in our sleep, the triumph we are pursuing, they all lead to the pinnacle of achievement. Performance day. The day of the final exam, the big sale to a customer, the project that got approved after months of prep, the presentation you gave to a large audience…
All good things require the appropriate time and effort. And since we don’t have these wonderful cameras following us around during those strenous hours of sacrifice, we watch this ad and see them reflected on the screen, allowing us to watch how, at least in our heads, we feel once we reach a milestone and look back at the journey.
And that last shivering scene, when Michael looks into the pool, as if trying to make sense of everything he has done, one cannot avoid thinking that, at the end, inevitably, those efforts will pay off.
Finally, the behind-the-cameras scenes allow us to appreciate that even Phelps needs to go through grueling practice sessions, helping us debunk the myth that he is “just” naturally talented. If that were the case, he would not need to do anything in between Olympics and just show up to get the gold medal. However, as any high-performance individual knows, there is always hard work and deliberate practice behind every success story.
Here is the ad. Be inspired.
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