In one spot from the IOC’s global Olympics campaign, Naomi Osaka - the face of Tokyo 2020, who lit the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony last week - reflects on being “different” and not fitting the box of a typical Olympian, as she inspires younger female athletes.
The film, which debuted earlier this month, felt timely and topical. It features a top athlete much in demand by marketers, an acknowledgment of how the world has changed, a nod to female empowerment and a message of inspiration.
Few would guess that it was created by a tiny creative studio most people in the ad industry have never heard of — Hulse & Durrell — consisting mainly of a two-person design team. What's more, it was crafted pre-pandemic and then reworked amid COVID restrictions into an entirely new campaign.
Vancouver-based design studio Hulse & Durrell is behind the “Stronger Together” campaign and has been on its own “Olympic journey,” not only over the past 18 months but over the last decade. Co-founders and creative directors Greg Durrell and Ben Hulse first met when they worked on the design team for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, part of a brand and creative team working on 10,000 projects ranging from the look of the games to the torch, medals and mascot.
After Vancouver, the pair continued to work on Olympic projects. Their work included rebranding Team Canada and licensing projects for the IOC. Then, in early 2019, they got an email to submit to a global RFP for the Olympic campaign, working on both branding and films.
While the pair had more than enough experience working on Olympic branding, for the film side they got in touch with top Canadian director Mark Zibert, known for his work on SickKids Foundation, and production company Scouts Honour, which helped them craft a mood film. Derek Kent, the former chief marketing officer of Team Canada, also stepped into the team to advise on marketing.
They were eventually invited to pitch to the IOC in Lausanne, Switzerland against some of the world’s top creative and branding agencies. As a two-person team versus agencies with thousands of employees, “it was a real David and Goliath situation,” recalls Durrell. “But we went all in and focused on the pitch. We dropped everything we were doing for two months, worked 18-hour days, until 3:45 a.m. before the pitch.”