Our Boxing Ad, Shot Before Covid, Packs a Real Punch Today
Three months ago, when I went to Portland, Ore., to shoot a commercial about boxing as remedy for mental health challenges, I never imagined I'd end up here. Quarantined in my partner's mom's house in a 55-plus community in New Jersey, as the world experiences the worst pandemic of my lifetime.
While I'm lucky to have work keeping me occupied during all of this, it's been far from easy. The first week, I got shingles from the stress. The second week, I found out my whole family had Covid-19. The third week I anxiously waited to hear about their recovery. While all this went on, I'd been working more than ever before, and dealing with my own insomnia and anxiety.
But the one shining light of each day was lacing up my sneakers and hitting the pavement in the hours before anyone else in the house was even awake. On my runs, I'd pound away all the stress and frustration and my inability to change our situation. And each day, I'd return home sweaty and spent, ready, at least for the moment, to take on the day.
Fortunately, this dynamic isn't new for me. Since age 15, I've used competitive sports to help cope. I've completed three marathons, countless half marathons, a few triathlons and was training for a half ironman (until Covid-19 dashed those hopes). My athletic drive may seem extreme to some, but whether dealing with stress from work, life, or some combination of the two, each time the crazies set in, I'd give myself a new challenge to tackle.
I always look for ways to put facets of my own experiences into my work. Which is why, when Society Nine, a company that makes women's boxing equipment and sportswear, won a pitch competition hosted by my agency, I wanted to find a way to bring this topic to life. My partner Ben—a fellow triathlete and sufferer of anxiety—and I also wanted to use advertising to help normalize the taboo nature of mental health. Which is how the focus of the spot became the struggle of the modern-day woman, positioning boxing as a way to escape.
Recent studies show women are nearly twice as likely as men to develop anxiety disorders, so it was important that we created a spot that showed how being an athlete can help women combat mental health issues. We chose Farinaz Lari, a world class athlete and boxing champion, who balances it all—in and out of the ring—to represent that mental health journey. It was also important that we comprised our set of mostly women and minorities who are often overlooked for leadership roles, to ensure the story was getting told by the people who understood it best. Our final on set crew was "65% BIPOC and 90% women/non-binary identifying" people, according to Society Nine founder, Lynn.
Truth is, according to a recent poll by Berlin Cameron and Ellevate Networks, women are supporting women now more than ever before, helping to heal some of the mental challenges we encounter as women in the process and this shoot was proof.
Using advertising to shed light on sensitive topics like mental health, is one of the best ways creatives can use our jobs for good. And while three months ago I never would have thought that our Portland production would have been a premonition for things to come, here we are, running away our feelings. And if, like me, you're losing your mind while whiling away the hours spent indoors, lace up those sneakers and go for a run, get in the ring or find a way to be active. I promise it will do wonders for your mental health.