Allianz's Support Dogs Help Olympians Prep for Tokyo Games

'Best friends' bolster athletes' mental health

In a short film from insurance firm Alliance, we meet world-class skateboarders Leticia Bufoni of Brazil and Dashawn Jordan of the United States. Facing tough odds, they train hard to earn spots on their respective Olympic teams ahead of the Tokyo Games.

Battling self-doubt, injuries and intense pressure to succeed, these athletes receive mental health assistance from some very special friends. Allianz provided support dogs to reduce Bufoni and Jordan's anxiety and emotional isolation as they honed their techniques and took part in Olympic qualifying competitions.

BBDO New York helped develop the program, working with nonprofits Love on 4 Paws and Little Angels.

"When I have the dog, everything goes away," Bufoni says in the three-minute video, which will stream on Allianz's social channels, the athletes' feeds and in banners across global Olympic properties. "All the thinking about the Olympics, the training, the sponsors, the medal—everything goes away. I felt so relaxed."

Bufoni secured a spot on Team Brazil, and her experience "reinforced that I really need to work on my mental health," she says. "I realized that as long as my head is in place, everything else will work."

Jordan failed to make the U.S. squad, but "having a dog just brings that light that allows me to move forward and remain positive," he says.

Reserve Label director Jacob Rosenberg shot the film last month in Los Angeles, where Bufoni and Jordan both live and train. Allianz and BBDO focused on skateboarders—providing dozens of dogs to international competitors—because the sport is making its Olympic debut this year.

"We knew these athletes were under an added level of stress as first-time Olympians," BBDO executive creative director Marco Cignini tells Muse. "The athletes in our film are unique—Leticia Bufoni broke her foot last year and wouldn't have been able to compete if the Games were held in 2020. Because of the pandemic postponement, she was able to recover and qualify for this year's Games. Dashawn Jordan qualified last year, but unfortunately did not qualify this year. Both are dealing with different kinds of mental stress because of their individual outcomes."

Of course, brands have long explored the deep connection between canines and humans, with Pedigree's "Feel the Good" frequently leading the pack. While not exactly a breakthrough, Allianz does take the genre in a somewhat new direction. The work eschews the glamor and glitz of big-time sports to portray Olympians as exactly what they are: gifted and vulnerable human beings who struggle mightily for greatness, and sometimes stumble along the way.

Ultimately, bonding with dogs helps Bufoni and Jordan gain perspective. They reconnect with their love for sports and, more importantly, enjoy personal growth and enhanced peace of mind en route to fresh challenges.

Allianz has also recruited four-time Olympian and mental health advocate Lindsay Vonn and Australian track-and-field Paralympian Vanessa Low for campaign appearances. They'll share stories about how dogs can help combat loneliness and boost self-esteem.

Last month, Allianz cast Usain Bolt in fun competitions against a bunch of kids. Alas, no support dogs were on hand to comfort the GOAT sprinter as he lost at Ping-Pong, basketball and more.

CREDITS

Allianz Support Dog Squad
Creative Agency:  BBDO New York
Chief Creative Officer, Worldwide: David Lubars
Executive Creative Director: Betsy Decker
Executive Creative Director: Marco Cignini
Head of Content Operations: Andrew Osborne
Executive Producer: Carole McCarty
Designer: Ray McGale
SVP Senior Director: Lindsey Cash
Account Director: Nathan King
Chief Strategy Officer: Andrea Ring
VP Strategy Director: Philip De Meulemeester
SVP, Director of Production Services: Jessica Nugent
Business Manager: Grace Kelly
PR agency: FleishmanHillard
Senior Vice President & Partner: Steve Hickok
Vice President: Pritni Sandhu
Account Supervisor: Micaela Benedetti
Sports Marketing Agency: GMR
Vice President: Jeff Handler
Client Services Director: Alexa Sunderland
Account Executive: Tatum Cornelius
Media Agency: OMD
Chief Strategy Officer: Rene Coiffard
Senior Executive Activation Digital: Eleni Pantelidou
Production Company: The Reserve Label
Director: Jacob Rosenberg
Executive Producer: Ryan Slavin
Executive Producer: Jay Pollak
Producer: Jay Kelman
DP: Mike Reyes
Editorial Company: Final Cut & The Reserve Label
Executive Producer: Sarah Roebuck
Executive Producer: Ryan Slavin
Executive Producer: Jay Pollak
Producer: Peter Walker
Editor: Chris Amos
Telecine Company: Forager TV
Colorist:  Jacob McKee
Conform / Finish Company: The Reserve Label
Executive Producer: Ryan Slavin
Executive Producer: Jay Pollak
Online Editor: Kate D'Angelo
Composite: Roberto Campos
Music: Asche & Spencer
Executive Producer: Matt Locher
Creative Director: Thad Spencer
Audio Post: The Reserve Label
Executive Producer: Ryan Slavin
Executive Producer: Jay Pollak
Sound Design / Mix: Juan Borda
Dog Organization: Little Angels Service Dogs
https://littleangelsservicedogs.org/
Executive Director: Josh Drew
Training Manager: Jen Bohan
Meet the dog: Nellie
Dog Organization: Love On 4 paws
https://www.loveon4paws.org/
President: Suni Cookson
Meet the Dog Teams: Tina & Nusta / Haydee, Bear / Terry, Samantha / William, JD / Pamela, Trip / Pam, Gracie / Rachel, Suede / Joe, Valentina & Windy / Terri, Haze / Michael, Sequoia / Lynne, Jackson / Mimi, Ronan / Jorja, Thomas / Lori, Apple / Diane, Maya / Deborah, Theo / Tina, Lilly / Raylene, Bosco / Shlomo

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