This week, Bonobos and agency Observatory are debuting a music video and companion documentary that unites a first-of-its-kind team of world-class male artistic swimmers. The campaign, called “Freestyle,” continues the men’s clothing brand’s push to challenge traditional ideas of masculinity, which began with its award-winning “Evolve the Definition” campaign in 2018.
Artistic swimming, previously called synchronized swimming, has traditionally been seen as a "female" sport and has barred male athletes at its highest level of competition, including the Olympics.
“Freestyle” challenges that very concept by bringing together famed American swimmer Bill May with Giorgio Minisini of Italy, Pau Ribes from Spain, Renan Alcantara from Brazil, Benoit Beaufils of France and Atsushi Abe of Japan for a unique performance.
Set to the song “Better as One” by The Heavy, the spot choreographed by May shows the swimmers diving, swirling, inverting, and dancing in unison while wearing traditional swim trunks. But it also moves to more pedestrian acts, with the talents reading the newspaper while drinking coffee, playing chess and posing in everyday clothing.
The music video is accompanied by a mini-documentary, just short of three minutes, that debuted last week on Bonobos’s Instagram. In it, the performers express their love of the art as well as the obstacles that have prevented male artists from receiving the same recognition as their female counterparts.
“We don’t let stereotypes or what people say influence us,” says Alcantara in the doc. “When I’m in the water, I really feel like I can be myself [and] break stereotypes.”
The ad missed the opportunity to coincide with the Olympics, though it was actually filmed almost a year and a half before this year’s games. A representative from Bonobos tells Ad Age that the brand shot the ad in Mexico City in February of last year, with plans to run it in the late spring of 2020. But "when COVID hit, we tabled the project due to shifting priorities within the business, and the world at large. We had to wait longer than anticipated to share the piece with the world, but are thrilled we're finally able to showcase our ad, these immensely talented swimmers, and how it all came together.”