A powerful new campaign by Havas Middle East for adidas strives for inclusivity in sports and celebrates a wider equity movement for the brand.
Beyond the Surface, a campaign staring Asma Elbadawi, a Sudanese-British spoken word artist, activist and athlete, marks the brand’s first inclusive Swimwear Collection.
Here, Joao Medeiros, Executive Creative Director of Havas Middle East and Fabio Silveira, General Manager of Havas DXB Creative, tell Dare! about the campaign’s impact and the depth of its accompanying activation.
Tell us about the campaign – what was the brief?
The challenge was to create a global film for adidas celebrating a movement of change that the brand is championing, an access to performance wear for the water for all women regardless of shape, ability, or religion.
The film presented adidas’ first inclusive Swimwear Collection, a range designed to support the needs of those who find the category offers a limited choice when it comes to swimwear. One of the initial points for the creative development was a survey commissioned by adidas that revealed only 12% of women in the region are completely comfortable wearing a swimsuit at a public beach or pool. Body shame and lack of privacy are the two main reasons women do not feel comfortable in their swimsuits and according to them, these are issues that are worsened by how media creates “an unattainable body image for female swimmers”.
Tell us about Beyond the Surface and the film’s production.
The Beyond the Surface campaign is part of Watch Us Move, adidas’ broader initiative designed to create more space for women in sport. The campaign celebrates the power of water and its ability to defy restrictions, bring renewal and accept everyone unconditionally.
The new campaign is fronted by spoken word-artist and sports inclusivity activist, Asma Elbadawi, who created a specially commissioned poem to celebrate her relationship with the water and the confidence it can bring to all women. Asma features in the campaign alongside Dareen Barbar, a Lebanese, Dubai-based, adidas ambassador and amputee athlete. Building on its commitment to making the future of sport more inclusive for all, adidas continues to evolve its swimwear offering, helping to overcome technical challenges and enable every woman in the water.
What about the media campaign? How did this film translate to social and beyond?
To follow the campaign launch, the clients wanted to also make a splash (pun intended!) on the ground in Dubai. We created a billboard you can swim in as a way of connecting the film to social influencers and making adidas and their new product a topic of conversation. The ground-breaking activation, which took place at one of Dubai’s most popular public beaches, saw the reveal of an incredible 5-metre high and three-metre-deep swimming pool. The liquid billboard could fit around 3,319 adidas shoe boxes and is made of reinforced transparent acrylic. Its walls can hold a whopping 11,500 gallons of water equivalent to nearly 163 bathtubs! The structure took a team of 32 people to build, working around the clock for three weeks to deliver. Women across the city were invited to jump into the liquid billboard and participate in the campaign. Footage from inside the billboard was then streamed to the city’s largest digital display. All this was to emphasise that the water is a place where we are all accepted and free.
We wanted to get the world talking so, yes, it was a spectacle, and yes, we literally opened a mainstream campaign to any woman in the city. But what strikes us as the most interesting part of the campaign was the emotional pull of it. As one participant who dived in said, “not once while I was in the water, did I think about what I looked like, if people were judging me and my body – I was totally and completely out of my head and in the moment”. This sums up what inspired the campaign. Freedom.
Asma Elbadawi stars in the campaign, how did you connect with her and why was she a good fit?
Asma is a Sudanese-British spoken word poet, activist, basketball player and a coach. She is known to have petitioned and succeeded in convincing the International Basketball Association to remove a ban on hijabs and religious headwear in the professional sport. The launch of a full-cover collection, designed to help women to feel comfortable and confident while delivering their best performance, couldn’t have had a better spokesperson.
This campaign is part of adidas’ wider Watch Us Move initiative. What is that and why do you think it’s important that campaigns seek to achieve more?
adidas believes that sports belong to all. An inspiring vision, supported by innovation, creativity and collaboration. Watch Us Move is the brand’s global attempt to ensure that sport is welcoming for all equally – closing the gender gap and building more equity in sport.
We know that brands and communication that seeks to achieve more and have a meaningful and positive impact in the world, perform better than those that do not share the same sense of purpose. But, beyond business results and campaign effectiveness, having the opportunity to be part of initiatives like this is important because it gives all of us a renewed sense of purpose. It allows each member of the team to go back to the essence of what brought us to the creative industry in the first place – that creativity is all it takes to make the world a better place.