June 21, 2024
Simone Biles

Celebrated gymnast Simone Biles reflects on her life-changing decision to take a pause.Powerade

Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles shocked fans and onlookers when she paused her celebrated gymnastics career and withdrew from the 2020 Tokyo Games, citing stress and burnout. Her decision was a significant moment that sparked a global conversation about mental health and athleticism.

Now the world-renowned gymnast has returned to the sport, with her sights set on the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris. Biles reflects on her journey and the importance of both physical and mental wellbeing in a powerful ad from Olympics sponsor Powerade.

“The Vault” follows Biles as she confronts the pressures and expectations of being a professional athlete. Amid a backdrop of media commentary, Biles tunes out the noise and focuses on practicing her routine.

In a notable departure from the typical high-octane ads for the Olympics and other big sporting events, Powerade’s film is quiet and slower paced, showing a human side of one of the world’s most recognizable athletes.

As Simone Biles returns to the mat, her own voice overtakes the jumbled sounds of commentators.
“I felt broken, that’s why I decided to take a pause,” she says. “I was only celebrated for my wins, and now it’s like for being a human, for being vulnerable.”

She moves in slow motion, while dreamlike sequences represent elements of her career and life, including intimate scenes of her sharing pizza with her family and playing with her dogs.

The ad ends with Biles landing on the mat, as a young admirer watches from the stands. The brand’s tagline reads: “Pause Is Power.”

Challenging sports culture
Powerade’s goal with the campaign is “to support athletes’ mental health and physical wellbeing,” both of which the Coca-Cola brand has championed since the launch of its “Pause Is Power” platform in 2022, Matrona Filippou, president, global category, hydration, sports, coffee and tea, told ADWEEK.

“We’re continuing to challenge the ‘win at all costs’ mentality associated with modern sports culture and showcase the benefits of taking deliberate pauses,” Filippou explained.

Back in 2021, Powerade was in the midst of developing its platform when Biles announced that she was stepping away from gymnastics. Her move inspired the brand’s direction.

“When we saw what Simone did, we wanted to partner with her,” said Filippou. “She’s the perfect example of what this could look like.”

The debut of “Pause Is Power” featured Biles and other athletes who were taking breaks. But that ad had a more lighthearted tone, with humor and a scene of Biles treating herself to a manicure.

With this work, “We felt that we needed to actually show the emotion, vulnerability and also the courage—that it’s OK to pause and take time out; it will help you come back stronger,” Filippou said. “That vulnerability and courage enabled us to take a more serious and emotional look at the work.”

Emmy Award-winning director Kim Gehrig directed the commercial through production company Somesuch. Gehrig brought “the human art into the story,” Filippou observed: “You can actually relate to the film, whether you’re an athlete or just someone going through something in your own personal or work life.”

The global campaign will launch in 30 markets. It was created by WPP Open X, led by Ogilvy and supported by EssenceMediacom, David Miami and VML, along with Altereko and Form&Fun.

Building on a legacy
Powerade’s origins lie in the Olympics, since Coca-Cola released the beverage in 1987 and it became the first official sports drink for the 1988 Seoul Games.

Although it is a longtime Olympics partner, Powerade is taking a different approach to the 2024 Paris Games with its crossover discussions about performance and mental wellbeing.

Along with the film about Biles, the brand will spotlight personal stories from its roster of international athlete partners, called Team Powerade, who include Chilean swimmer Alberto Abarza, New Zealand soccer star CJ Bott and French cyclist Mathilde Gros, among others.

In the Olympic Village in Paris, Powerade will host an experience for athletes enabling them to prepare mentally and physically for competition. The area will provide an environment for recovery, virtual reality visualization practices and safe spaces for conversations about mental health.

The brand will also introduce a limited-edition new flavor for the Games, called Powerade Gold.

By elevating stories such as Biles’, Powerade is hoping that its campaign stands out because “it’s a lot more real than saying, ‘Here’s another product, let’s talk about performance,’” Filippou said. “This is an opportunity for Powerade to not just be an ordinary brand; this could be an iconic moment.”

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