Meet the Superhumans: 4Creative's Paralympics Case Study


Channel 4 had the broadcast rights to the 2016 Rio Paralympics, so we knew the opportunity to promote it was there. In 2012 the focus was all around the athletes. This time round we wanted to broaden the term superhuman to include non athletes as well.
"The 3-minute film challenges you to forget what you think you know about disability, and is a huge celebration of ability beyond disability"
Channel 4 has a unique remit to champion diversity, innovation and new talent, so this 3-minute film couldn’t be more Channel 4. The 2012 campaign was hugely successful and we decided early on that we would do something completely different rather than try and better it. In 2012, the Public Enemy track gave the advert bags of swagger. It was full of athletes and focussed around strength and defiance. This time round we completely changed the tone. It’s warm and celebratory, which feels appropriate for people’s perception of Brazil. But mostly what we’ve tried to do is broaden the term Superhuman to also include non athletes. The 3-minute film challenges you to forget what you think you know about disability, and is a huge celebration of ability beyond disability.
The Process: As with any creative it was a very organic process. Once we had our idea/script, we approached Dougal Wilson at Blink to pitch a creative treatment. He was the perfect person for the job given his level of experience directing ads and music promos. He’s also a thoroughly lovely man with a brilliant creative brain, which made the process so enjoyable. We spent many late evenings huddled around a big round table at Blink, pushing and developing the script until we had something we thought was pretty special. We found the music track through Abi Leland. Once we had the track the scenes really began to come alive, as the lyrics were so powerful. The Sammy Davis Junior track, YES I CAN, was re-recorded using only disabled musicians, at Abbey Road in studio 2.
The Set Up
4creative is a wonderful mash up between ad agency, design agency and production company, so we have some incredible producers able to kickstart our ideas. Shananne Lane is our exec producer and Clare Brown our Head of Production, and they were able to take our creative concept and work out the best way to bring it to life from very early on. Once the director Dougal Wilson from Blink was involved, it became a crack team including Blink producers Ewen Brown and Lucy Jones.
The Challenges
The biggest challenge, apart from cracking an idea, was the casting. There’s such a poor representation of disability on screen that it was hard to find the people we wanted. There are 140 disabled people in the 3-minute film. Apparently that’s more disabled people in one advert than in the whole history of British advertising. We found some amazing stars with the help of charities but a lot of the cast came from searching the internet.

We also wanted to make the campaign the most accessible, so along with the 3-minute film we’ve also made a signed and subtitled version and an audio described version using Adam Hills.
The Team
4creative is very small and a wonderful mash up between ad agency, design agency and our marketing team sit one floor up from us, so it’s more about sharing ideas than selling anything in. We see them as colleagues rather than clients and this campaign was a huge group effort.
I’m proud that we’ve shown a different side to disability and challenged people’s perceptions. We’ve had some incredible feedback from families with disabled children to Paralympians competing in Rio, all saying they will channel the Yes I Can mentality in their lives or in a race.