Behind the Work in association withThe Immortal Awards

Your Shot: adidas Spreads Sporting Creativity with the Help of Female Athletes

Production Company
New York, USA
m ss ng p eces director Tucker Walsh on working with Karlie Kloss, Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic and more

For its Sports 2016 global campaign, adidas has enlisted a superstar team of incredible female athletes. Tennis stars Caroline Wozniacki and Ana Ivanovic, WNBA player Candace Parker, supermodel Karlie Kloss, rock climber Sasha DiGiulian, DJ Hannah Bronfman, street athlete Robin Arzon, fitness artist Nicole Winhoffer, and yoga teacher Adriene Mishler all feature in the campaign.

Using footage taken from each star’s Instagram feeds, we’re given an intimate look into the athlete’s lives and how they bring their own styles of creativity to their respective expertise. Agency 72andSunny is behind the creative and m ss ng p eces director Tucker Walsh helmed each film. LBB’s Addison Capper caught up with him for one of the most refreshing and uplifting production stories we’ve heard in quite some time.

LBB> Why did this brief stick out as something you’d like to get involved with?

TW> This was one of those rare projects that had a highly authentic, intimate and, in many cases, unscripted approach while also being a large scale global campaign. That combination is very rare and presents a ton of creative opportunities. I got to hang out with amazing athletes and influencers and run around filming fun stuff on an iPhone - what’s not to love?!

LBB> Each film uses content plucked from each star’s Instagram profiles. How many of these nuggets did you actively direct? How much input did you have into the different situations we see?

TW> The goal was to empower each subject to film as much of the content herself so that it not only felt user-generated but also maintained the style and voice of the athlete. So my job was to really help them forget that this was an adidas campaign and instead capture life as they would if it were any other day. 

The mind set I had going into each shoot was to leave my director/filmmaker cap at home and instead be a friendly face hanging out and capturing fun moments. There was no saying “action” or “cut” or anything even remotely close to that. It was about as loose and casual as a commercial production can get. This is generally how I like to approach all my projects, as I think it produces the most authentic and intimate results, but this campaign really took it to the next level.

LBB> Obviously each clip needs to fit the brief and your vision, but also the tone of each athlete’s social media profile. How tricky was it to strike the balance between the two?

TW> At first we had planned to use a variety of cinematic techniques to make each spot look and feel unique, like shooting in black and white, using only stills, using one filter for the entire spot. But what we found was in order to really pull off the Instagram compilation approach, we needed a mix of looks and types of content to give each spot variety so it doesn’t feel overly produced or scripted, rather curated from the subject’s own content. That said, many of the subjects had a distinct way of capturing moments, particularly when it came to how they filmed themselves (selfies). But the great part about this campaign was that in those cases I would just hand the iPhone over to the subject and have her record the selfie in her own style. 

Often my only direction would be, “Record a selfie of xyz as if you were sharing a moment on Instagram with your followers.” And they pretty much took control of the situation and rocked it from there. It was very organic and very freeform – often the best moments were completely unscripted and spontaneously captured by the subjects themselves.   

LBB> How was it for you, as a director, to give up some creative control for the athletes? 

TW> It was awesome. The more I could step back and give control to the athletes, the better the footage was. It was truly a collaboration between myself and the subjects, and it couldn’t have worked any other way. 

LBB> The editing of the films is particularly important, considering all of the quick, sharp clips. How involved were you in that process?

TW> 72andSunny invited me to play a very active role in the post process, which I was extremely grateful for. I even edited a rough cut of several of the spots myself. It was a tight timeline so all hands were on deck! 

The edits typically started off with multiple audio lines and a lot of storytelling, but over time the messaging in the audio lines was instead delivered via Instagram comments cards. This was mainly to ensure each spot truly felt like an Instagram creation rather than a more traditional doc-style spot. 

In many cases, we shot so much footage that we could have edited a five-minute mini-doc with just our new material. But because the campaign is based in the Instagram world, we were forced to only use a limited number of shots to ensure the final edit feels like a compilation of many Instagram moments (found and shot) rather than a doc-style spot all shot on one day. So needless to say, there were endless moments left on the cutting room floor. This was definitely painful!

LBB> Considering the number of films and variety of talent, how was the whole process, logistically?

TW> It was a bit insane from a production standpoint, but luckily both m ss ng p eces and myself have had experience with similar global campaigns involving multiple production teams in multiple time zones. Even though our crews were very small and nimble on set, there were an army of people working behind the scenes. My producer, Myna Joseph, was the calm captain that did an incredible job managing all the moving parts. I’m not just saying that...I truly lucked out to have an amazing team. 

Originally many of the shoots were going to overlap, so we were going to have to hire local production crews to do the filming, and I would direct remotely from LA. But we worked hard to spread the shoots out as much as possible (given the limitations of our subjects’ availability). I ended up being able to be on the ground for nine out of 13, which was great. I’d be in my hotel room in Florida Whatsapping with a shooting team in the UK at 2am then shooting in Miami starting at 7am then flying to New York that night and shooting two days in a row in NYC. Crazy, but we made it work. 

LBB> What are your most memorable moments of the production? 

TW> Each shoot was truly a blast, and it was awesome meeting and working with all the athletes. I’d say the most memorable moments were when a subject invited us into unexpected and very intimate moments that we never could have captured if it weren’t for our small crew and light footprint. For example, Caroline Wozniacki invited us into her parents’ home for lunch on Fishers Island in Miami. Caroline’s mom makes her lunch every day in between training, and Caroline’s dad is her tennis coach. They were the friendliest family! 

Another great moment was when Karlie Kloss asked if we could film at her apartment instead of a previously planned location. We originally heard we could not film at her place, but on the day of the shoot she decided it would be better for the story, so next thing I knew we were baking vegan cookies in her kitchen. They were absolutely delicious, and the proceeds from Karlie’s Kookies have helped donate over a million school lunches. 

But I’d say the most game-changing moment was with 22-year-old US National soccer player Morgan Brian. We met up with Moe and her two best friends at her childhood soccer field outside Jacksonville, Florida. The plan was to film Morgan doing all these super intense, serious training drills and techniques that played into our original story thesis. But within minutes of meeting Moe and her friends, I could sense there was a great story and some really fun moments we could capture between the three of them. Morgan told me how they grew up practicing on these fields and used to sneak out at night and play until 2am having the time of their lives. I decided to scrap my entire shot list and instead just asked them to do what they would do if I weren’t there filming them. For the next three hours, Morgan and her two friends ran around the soccer field, chasing geese, playing ‘monkey in the middle’ and even kicking the soccer ball at each other from a moving golf cart, as if it were target practice. As they put it, they are “22 going on 12” – just having fun and going back to that childlike place. Morgan went on to explain how not overthinking makes her a more creative player, which turned into our new thesis. The shoot was a bit surreal, and an entirely new story organically emerged in the moment. The hard part was that all this great authentic footage and storyline had to be boiled down to a 15 second edit!

LBB> What were trickiest components and how did you overcome them?

TW> We didn’t have access to the subjects prior to the shoot day, so we could not coordinate or collaborate on ideas until we were together in-person. This was definitely a challenge and part of the reason so much of it was created on the fly. When we did finally meet, I would explain the campaign and how we want to empower them to capture and tell their own stories in their own voices. I would often reference some of their past Instagram posts as examples of the types of moments we love. All the subjects quickly understood what we were going for, and things unfolded from there. We went into the shoots having done a ton of research on each subject, so we were prepared for anything to happen.

One challenge we faced on a couple of the shoots was when we did not have fully exclusive time with the subject, meaning we had to tag along capturing her daily routine of training, working out, etc. This was okay because we got lots of great action shots, but it meant that the more personal selfie moments had to come in the quick moments we could grab her. For example, during a 30-second water break, Caroline would record a selfie video about how much she dreams about eating chocolate while working out. We had to balance getting what we needed while also staying out of the way, but luckily all the athletes were very easy going, and we always got what we needed and more.  

LBB> Any parting thoughts?

TW> I just want to give major props to adidas and 72andSunny for taking a risk and allowing their athletes to essentially tell their own stories. This campaign was truly created on the fly, in the moment and without any of the traditional commercial trappings. There were no client monitors, no playback, no nothing. We barely even mic’d the subject half the time! This type of production involves a lot of trust and is a risk that 99 per cent of clients don’t want to take, but adidas did, and I think it paid off. 

It was also cool to see how much the athletes really appreciated the spirit of this campaign. Almost each and every subject went out of their way to say how much they loved the authentic, user-generated approach and how it was such a nice change of pace from the often overly produced and polished commercial productions. I encourage more brands to embrace the talent they sponsor and invite them to join the creative process! Big kudos to the genius minds at 72andSunny who were incredible creative partners during this journey.

Lastly, I just want to thank all the athletes for being incredibly kind, down-to-earth and collaborative. There were no egos involved, which made this campaign a total pleasure to be a part of.

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