New Balance explores running as a transcendent experience for everyday folks—it helps them gain perspective, cultivate peace of mind and develop a sense of accomplishment—in a series of shorts timed to last Sunday's London Marathon.
Developed by VMLY&R and Curfew director Mike Lee Thomas, the team shot on location around the British capital, telling moody tales of three diverse subjects, including Georgie, who explains how running helped her overcome addiction:
"I ran from stuff," Georgie says. "I wanted oblivion and darkness and not having to deal with anything. At the time I didn't know what I was looking for. I thought I was just looking for the party."
She treks through fields and cityscapes in the early-morning mist, concluding: "Running was just the thing that I could rely on, that could make me feel like there was a point and a purpose to the day."
It's a no-frills, forthright approach—deeply felt and relatable. Intensity runs high, but melodrama has no place on these jogging trails. Rather, Georgie simply tells her story, and her words hit home.
The same holds true for Jade, who runs to raise money for charity, and Reon, who took up the sport to improve his outlook on life:
"Even though two of our stories feature runners who have run marathons and ultra-marathons, the campaign was not about unattainable athletic performance. It's about an accessible approach to running, even if it feels out of reach," VMLY&R creative director Meredith Kinee tells Muse. "We wanted people to see running as a positive and powerful message of inspiration in multiple aspects of life."
The team conducted extensive pre-production interviews and shot the films in the places where Georgie, Jade and Reon run every day.
"It made for genuine, interesting and sometimes emotional conversations about the many forms running can take in a person's life and the role it can play in altering their path," says Rachel Cuyler, also a VMLY&R creative director. "That's how we were then able to separate each unscripted film into their own personal theme: be it an act of courage, motivation or pure strength for survival."
In concept and tone, the work feels akin to Adidas' "Faster Than" ads from a few months back, and which likewise focused on real people who run for various personal reasons.
Filming for the New Balance campaign took place in January, though the 40th annual London Marathon, originally scheduled for April, was delayed six months owing to the pandemic.
"Launching the films now is hugely emotionally rewarding because the campaign and the stories are still just as relevant," Cuyler says. "Since the focus of our films was around individual stories, we had shot each runner separately, which serendipitously provided us with content that is still safe, true and relevant for runners given the current climate of social distancing."
"Beyond that," she adds, "their stories of running for better mental clarity, for conjuring strength from within, and for finding new perspectives are still topical, universal and possibly even more relevant today."
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Client: New Balance
Senior Marketing Manager: Samantha Matthews
Senior Brand Marketing Manager: Tom Henshaw
Partnerships Manager: Lynn Gallagher
Marketing Communications Manager: Harriet Smith
CEO, New York & CCO, NA: Jason Xenopoulos
CCO, New York: Wayne Best
Creative Director: Meredith Kinee
Creative Director: Rachel Cuyler
Senior Producer: Jeff Piper
Executive Music Producer: Theresa Notartomaso
Chief Client Officer, New York: Chris Furse
Chief Strategy Officer: Tomas Gonsorcik
Group Director, Strategy & Insights: Miriam Raisner
Director, Strategy & Insights: Teny Akay
Director, Client Engagement: Chelsea Dubin
Commerce Strategist: Logan Hassig
Production Company: Curfew
Director: Mike Lee Thomas
EP: Kathryn Berk
Line producer: Edward Tull
DP: Jeremy Valender
Editor: Joey Chriqui
Post Production: Company 3
Colorist: Joseph Bicknell
Sound Design and Mix: Wave Studios
Sound Designer/Mixer: Chris Afzal
Executive Producer: Vicky Ferraro