Today, USA Swimming launched a campaign called SwimToday. You can see all the creative elements of the campaign, but I wanted to share some behind the scenes moments that didn’t make the cut (nor should they) for the official press announcement. Some moments inspired me, others made me laugh and some were just plain embarrassing. There is also another blog on USASwimming.org that gives some background on the campaign, the word “funnest” and what fun means in sports.
The idea of doing an industry campaign to grow participation all started in January of 2013 when we brought together 19 different organizations into the same room in Colorado Springs to talk about the vision of this campaign. Some of these organizations compete with each other on a daily basis, but everyone laid down their arms for the “greater good” of the sport.
The “Pitch Meeting”
My TV-inspired vision of what an ad agency “pitch meeting” was like came true. We worked with Minneapolis-based ad agency Colle+McVoy on the campaign. In November of 2013 a group of us went to their offices to hear them pitch us two concepts on the campaign. I will never forget the sentiment in the room after we heard pitches on two distinct directions. I recall saying, “Concept 1 is a great representation of where we are as a sport today. Concept 2 represents where we want to go.” As you guessed, the “funnest sport there is” was Concept 2 and a unanimous choice of our group. (And, no, I am not going to share what Concept 1 was!)
To get Colle+McVoy excited about doing this work, we brought in Olympic medalist Jimmy Feigen to give a pep talk. He had the entire agency in stiches with his fun, light-hearted and sometimes a bit edgy talk. He started at least five sentences in his talk with “USA Swimming probably wouldn’t want me to say this, but …” and then continued with his stories as I sat in the front row and unknowingly played his straight man. That made him even more engaging with the agency team, and I admittedly liked it too.
I have to admire kids striving for acting roles. It’s not easy walking into a sound stage with 10 adults watching your every move to audition for a part. After looking at more than 15 auditions in the Phoenix area, we selected Collin Bridge to be our lead for the Public Service Announcement. This spot was originally called “Confidence Kid” but we changed it to the “The Walk” as that was such a key element of the personality of this spot.
For the photo shoot of the campaign, we hired a photographer named Poby. Yep, that’s right, just one name kind of like Sting or Madonna. I took the bait and asked why just “Poby?” He said, “Have you ever heard people try to pronounce Peter “Poby” Pobyjpicz?” Poby was the one who shot Michael Phelps for the Visa campaign. At first, we were intimidated of what this guy would be like. He was the most down-to-earth, friendly person you could imagine. Not only was he a great photographer, but he also managed 20+ kids in the shoot so well, and that was the real key to his success. He spent the better part of an 8-hour day with a weight belt on submerged in the pool to get all of the great shots for the campaign. His experience as a water polo player for the German National Team sure helped!
Swim Nut Zeke
At the photo shoot, USA Swimming Art Director Matt Lupton was discovered as the artist behind SwimNut Zeke. An autograph session ensued.
The Photo Shoot Finale
After the photo shoot, of course, we had to jump in ourselves.
More Than a Spokesperson
We hosted an initial press event in New York in February in conjunction with the closing days of the Olympic Winter Games. In a side conversation with Dara Torres I told her, “We don’t want a spokesperson. We want a partner.” Based on her enthusiastic reaction, I knew immediately she would be great part of this campaign. She embraced that and has exceeded expectations in every way.
Every campaign has its share of embarrassing moments along the way. In late April, USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus gave a presentation to 100+ of the top National Team swimming coaches in the country. I prepared a presentation for Chuck to give the coaches a sneak peek at the SwimToday campaign. Of course, I showed the “Basketball. Football. Cannonball” ad. However, I forgot that the staff from USA Basketball and former Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo were in the room for the next keynote talk as we took a gentle poke at their sport. Oops.
There are some other stories to tell along the way, and some I will never tell, but we hope you enjoy the campaign!