New Delhi: Adidas, the German sportswear brand which was being promoted by Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli till recently, has unveiled a new digital campaign on an Indian figure skater, Nishchay Luthra. Titled Fan the fire, the digital campaign features the 18-year-old athlete who has won four international medals and is a nine-time national gold medalist.

The two-minute-long video, created by advertising agency Cheil India, follows the inspiring story of Luthra, who charms viewers with his stunning moves as he skates and trains relentlessly pursuing his dream to bag a medal in the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics. The video tells the story of the young skater through his mother’s voiceover who narrates her son’s journey. The campaign introduces Luthra to the viewer as a “young athlete who is training in Florida to represent India in Winter Olympics and all on his own" and urges them to support him.

This film on Luthra is the first in Adidas’s initiative to draw attention to lesser known athletes who require the support of the nation. The brand plans to spin Fan the fire as a platform where deserving talented athletes who are pursuing alternate sports can garner support and recognition.

“We want to turn the spotlight on alternate sports and athletes who pursue them in India. Nishchay’s story needed to be told because skating does not get media attention hence is not known to the majority of the population. He’s a great athlete who is performing internationally without getting any financial support and very little recognition. There are so many others like him who deserve to be recognized and celebrated," said Sean van Wyk, senior marketing director, Adidas India.

Through this campaign, the brand is trying to reach out to young athletes between 14 and 24 years of age across the country with a focus on metros like Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. The Fan the fire initiative is a part of Adidas Uprising, a platform that the brand created three years ago. Under it, Adidas organises a variety of sporting events across Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, urging consumers to participate and adopt an active lifestyle.

“Last year, an article appeared in a daily about Nishchay Luthra talking about his struggle to raise funds for training. We kept reading similar stories about aspiring athletes facing financial difficulties. These stories were pricking our conscience and we finally decide to pitch the idea of Fan the fire to Adidas. The objective is to create a platform where the not so fortunate but extremely talented athletes can get support and recognition through a mainstream brand’s digital assets," said Vijay Simha, group creative director, Cheil India.

Apart from promoted it on microblogging platform Twitter and social media network Facebook, Adidas has also set up a crowdfunding page on Milaap.org where people can pitch in for Luthra’s training.

Going forward, Adidas India plans to highlight the inspiring stories of 10 to 12 athletes from different sports. The idea is to get individuals, brands or even government bodies like Sports Authority of India’s attention to the plight of these talented athletes.

“In a cricket-obsessed nation like India, the idea of celebrating lesser known athletes is fantastic," said John Thangaraj, executive planning director, advertising agency FCB Ulka.

“However, starting with figure skating may just be a bridge too far even for Adidas. I would have liked them to have adopted a more grassroot approach in terms of choice of sport. Full respect to Nishchay for accomplishing what he has, but does Adidas even make figure skating equipment?" he asked.

Thangaraj also feels that for such campaigns to work, a certain element of virality is necessary which lacks in the Adidas campaign. He noted that Nike’s Da Da Ding campaign became viral because it was a fantastic piece of content with great visuals, a catchy soundtrack and an A-List celebrity (Deepika Padukone) and not because it featured athletes. “Unfortunately this film has none of that going for it which is a shame, because I genuinely feel that Nishchay’s story deserves to be told. I can’t help but feel that a more emotional, less derivative take on Nishchay’s journey would have led to far larger emotional payoff for the viewer, which in turn would have led to far more virality," he added.

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