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Canadian campaign for London Games reveals how Olympians are made

05/07/2012 06:16 EDT | Updated 07/07/2012 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - Canada's women's soccer captain Christine Sinclair runs stairs in an empty stadium. A sweat-soaked Adam van Koeverden slices through the water in his kayak. Boxer Mary Spencer heaves a medicine ball methodically against a wall.

They're images of the long hours of work Canada's Olympians do away from the spotlight, when the camera is normally turned off.

They're also images the Canadian Olympic Committee hopes will help the country's London-bound athletes become household names.

The COC unveiled its glitzy "Give Your Everything" multimedia campaign Monday featuring more than 50 athletes including Sinclair, van Koeverden and Spencer in the thick of their training for London.

"The Olympics is interesting for us, obviously it's every four years but it's every day for us, we live it every day, and that video was a good indication of what we do every single day," said van Koeverden, an Olympic gold, silver and bronze medallist.

"I get up, I walk to my boat, I put it on the water, I pound on the water for 90 minutes, I go back, I eat, I drink, I go to the gym. That's my routine every day."

The 15-week national campaign is the Canadian Olympic team's largest and most integrated campaign ever. Athletes will be featured on buses and billboards, television, radio and print ads, and in online short documentaries.

The footage was shot by Canadian director and producer Henry Lu, who said he couldn't name one Canadian summer Olympian before working on the project.

The goal is for Canadian fans to get to know them well.

"I think in this world where everyone's famous for 15 seconds, that athletes really deserve it, that there's this incredible dedication and years of work and substance that goes behind this moment we see at the Olympic Games," said Mark Tewksbury, an Olympic swimming champion and the Canadian team's chef de mission for London.

"And they're great role models. Who else would you want, Kim Kardashian or an Olympian?"

The COC hopes to build on the momentum that began with the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where so many Canadian fans embraced the country's athletes.

"The 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games were transformative in so many ways, and we like to think of having set a new trajectory for the Olympic movement in Canada," said Chris Overholt, the COC's chief executive officer. "In the aftermath of Vancouver, we're seeing a heightened sense of pride in what Canada can do on the world stage."

The footage was shot on location in Vancouver, Victoria, Windsor, Montreal and Florida. The national debut of the campaign's spot "Relentless" was scheduled to air on CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada" on Monday.

Rower Brian Price, coxswain in the men's eight, called the campaign a "really unique" marketing campaign, noting the athletes don't often get showcased.

"It's almost like our own little music video and I think that that's a really great way for not only us to connect with people but also for us to connect with kids," said Price, a Victoria native. "Because that's a cool video and kids are going to see that and think 'Wow, I want to be that guy. I want to be that girl.' I think that's only going to help sport in Canada grow, showing ads like that."

Van Koeverden agreed, saying he hoped the campaign would inspire Canadian kids to try a variety of sports.

"If a kid is really, really inspired or interested in any sport, there's opportunities out there. I'd love to see more young Canadians be interested in more than just hockey," said the Oakville, Ont., native.

Tewksbury said he was one of the lucky Canadian athletes who enjoyed the spotlight 20 years ago — he was bare-chested in a Bugle Boy jeans campaign that was plastered on bus shelters across the country in the early 1990s.

"It created a real stir. So I know what this is going to do for some of these athletes," Tewksbury said. "I had never experienced that before, what it means to be on bus shelters, what it means to be in a commercial, and it changes everything dramatically."

He hopes the video footage will help people put performances at the Games in perspective, showing the hard work the athletes put in ahead of the big day.

"I think it's normal to have high expectations. We always say no one expects more of themselves than the athletes themselves. But I think that's the cool thing of this campaign is that it shows a little bit like 'Hey if someone goes and they don't perform on the day, it's not like they didn't put in the thousands of hours to get there. It wasn't like oh, we just sent this team to go for a trip.'

"'Give Your Everything' is not just on that day at the Games, it's the years in between.

"And even though it's very quick, I think those spots give a real snapshot into like 'Wow, this is a lonely life, it's a hard life. And these people give a lot, they're worth being role models.'"

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