Two talented directors – Mark Zibert and Kevin Foley – illustrate the more human side of some fan-favorite athletes for the 2021 International Olympics Committee campaign entitled “Stronger Together.” Amplified by a rousing score and inspiring voiceovers, the films showcase the dynamic athleticism of Olympians in an affecting and soulful way. Since the campaign kicked off with the hero film, the IOC reported it has measured over 250 million impressions.
The anthem spot features some 20 athletes, capturing the explosive power and breathtaking skill of exciting up-and comers to household names. Other films within the campaign focus the lens on individual athlete stories, including Naomi Osaka, Usain Bolt, Tony Hawk, Nyjah Huston, and Refugee Olympic Team member Yusra Mardini. The sixth and final film, released on July 13, offers a tantalizing glimpse of the world of wrestling, each shot artfully demonstrating the grace and power of Cuban-Italian wrestler Frank Chamizo Marquez.
Working collaboratively with Canadian design agency Hulse & Durrell from the beginning, Zibert and Foley created the mood film that ultimately won the agency the pitch. For the directors, it was imperative there be a sense of humanity and emotion in the storytelling. Beyond beautiful vignettes of the athletes’ physicality, the films needed to emphasize solidarity and the strength in the collective human experience, now more than ever.
Produced by Scouts Honour with an all-Canadian crew, production on the star-studded work commenced pre-pandemic and picked back up in 2021, with the global film shoot spanning six cities across four continents, including Cape Town (South Africa), Lisbon (Portugal), Los Angeles (USA), Kingston (Jamaica), Melbourne (Australia), and Toronto (Canada). With an average of only 30 minutes with each athlete, pulling off the hero and individual films was a feat of efficiency and flexibility.
Even on a project of this magnitude, splitting the directing duties with Zibert was a completely egoless experience, says Foley. “The key was to not be too precious with it. We would research, prep, look at scene, capture it, then move onto the next sequence.”
“I’ve long admired Z’s abilities as both a DP and a director, so to work as collaborators, and having his trust in me to run point on certain aspects of the campaign – it was the journey of a lifetime. An absolute joy to be part of.”
For Foley, who is represented internationally by Rakish, in Canada by Scouts Honour, the IOC campaign adds to a growing repertoire of work characterized by immediacy, emotional intelligence, and what has grown into a signature cinematic style, regardless of the genre.