Imagine the problem – having made the best TV commercial ever for London 2012, the prospect of making an even better one for Rio 2016?
This was the conundrum facing British broadcaster Channel 4 as the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games approached.
Renowned for its outstanding creativity, Channel 4 rose to the challenge in emphatic style, introducing the world to “We’re The Superhumans”, a 180 second masterpiece that has rightly gone onto win multiple domestic and international awards. That’s why Channel 4 is No. 13 in the International Paralympic Committee’s Top 50 Moments of 2016.
Set to a cover version of Sammy Davis Jr’s catchy “Yes I Can” and recorded by a group of musicians with an impairment, the opening shot features an armless drummer playing with his feet. “We’re The Superhumans” aimed to build on the success of the London 2012 campaign but this time not just showcase the extraordinary talents of Para athletes but many ordinary people living with all manners of an impairment.
“It was about broadening what ‘superhuman’ means,” explained Dane Brooke, Channel 4’s Director of Marketing and Communications. “We didn’t want to have that word apply to just the thin sliver of people that are world class athletes, but anybody with a disability. Even if it’s just getting around in everyday life, we wanted this to be a celebration of that.”
The advert featured a world record 160 different people with an impairment. Dancers, gymnasts, rock stars, a rally driver and a rock climber, a child with prosthetic limbs, as well as a mum, all featured alongside some of the British Para athletes who would go on to star at Rio 2016
Arguably the star of the commercial however was Tony Doevendans (also known as Tony Dee), an Australian wheelchair user who Channel 4 found singing an old Frank Sinartra song on YouTube. Tony was the lead singer of The Superhumans Band who belted out the lyrics that fitted perfectly with the pictures: “Take a look, what do you see/ 133 pounds of confidence me/ Got the feeling I can do anything/ Yes, I can.”
The campaign was a sensational success; nearly half of the people in Great Britain tuned in to watch the Paralympics and half of all British Facebook users saw the spot. The campaign’s most notable achievement however is the impact it had on changing attitudes and perceptions.
A staggering 81 per cent of those who recall the trail agree that Para athletes are as talented as able-bodied athletes, whilst 73 per cent said seeing the advert made them feel more positive about the Paralympics.
It’s no surprise therefore that the campaign has won multiple awards, including the prestigious Commercial of the Year at the world renowned shots awards which recognise the best campaigns from around the globe.
The advert, together with its Rio 2016 coverage, was the centrepiece of the broadcaster’s Year of Disability.
Amongst other measures to mark the year was that 58 per cent of all Channel 4’s Paralympic Games presenters had an impairment.
To find out more about the IPC’s Top 50 Moments of 2016, visit the dedicated page on the IPC’s website.