Canadian Olympic Committee ad campaign looks to boost recognition of athletes

There's always plenty of buzz around Canada's Olympic athletes leading up to the Games themselves, but it's easy for them to fall off the public radar between Olympics. The Canadian Olympic Committee is trying to change that with a new campaign they unveiled Monday, tagged "Give Your Everything" (or "Tout Donner" en français). The campaign shines spotlights on several Canadian Olympic athletes who will be heading to London this summer, and it does so through billboards, traditional television ads and additional online-only videos. The videos were created by veteran commercial director Henry Lu, the man who produced Nike's original "Just Do It" ad and has worked with companies such as Google and Walmart; he volunteered plenty of hours to make this happen. Here's one of the online videos, profiling famed Canadian kayaker Adam van Koeverden, who holds three Olympic medals from Athens and Beijing:

More videos can be found on the Canadian Olympic Committee's site. They're pretty interesting looks behind the scenes of what it takes to be an Olympic athlete, particularly on the training front. COC chief marketing officer Derek Kent said in an unveiling Monday in Toronto that the initial focus was on television ads, but the content available led the committee to go beyond that.

"We realized that there was such great content here, we had to create digital shorts," Kent said. "They're a great way for Canadians to see what it really takes to be an Olympian."

Kent said it was difficult to get across just how special these athletes are in a short 60-second ad, so the time and space available online allowed for a more in-depth focus on athletes like swimmer Ryan Cochrane.

"Consumers and fans can click online and discover a little bit more about Ryan Cochrane," he said. "It's not just about the 60-second ad, it's about digging deeper."

Here's the profile on Cochrane:

What's particularly interesting about that Cochrane profile are his comments on the sacrifices being an Olympian entails.

"You give up a lot," he said. "You give up a lot socially, you give up a lot when it comes to school."

Still, the time and even the pain can pay off.

"It's a great feeling to know your body has overcome such adversity and you're so much better for it," he said.

Lu was brought on stage with several Canadian athletes at Monday's unveiling in Toronto. He said when he got into the project, he had very little idea who these athletes were. He said it became clear from talking to them that they were special, determined people, and he saw these videos as a way to present them to the country.

"My favourite part of the whole endeavour was really just to interview these guys," Lu said. "You really see that grit, that dedication, that determination. That discipline is really amazing."

Canadian men's eight rowing coxswain Brian Price, who claimed a gold medal with that team in Beijing in 2008, said at Monday's unveiling that the "Give Your Everything" tag is perfectly appropriate for his job.

"I'm sitting and asking them to give everything," he said. "There's got to be a real mutual respect between me and these guys. ... We're really dialed in and really focused."

Valérie Welsh, from the Canadian synchronized swimming team, said Monday that the opportunity to go to her first Olympics this summer is the fulfilment of a lifelong dream.

"The Olympics is the dream of every athlete," she said. "As a little girl, it was mine too."

Canadian 2012 chef de mission Mark Tewksbury, who claimed a swimming gold medal in Barcelona in 1992, said Monday that it's fantastic to see a campaign like this spotlighting what it takes to become an Olympian. He's hopeful that will raise interest in these athletes beyond just the Games.

"What's magnificent about this campaign is it gets a real snapshot into the journey and the hard work it takes to be an Olympian," Tewksbury said. "I want to give a huge shoutout to the Canadian Olympic Committee for making this happen. It's about time, and it's fantastic."