Team GB and adidas sprint to complete farewell film
The Olympics are now just a distant memory and in London things have begun to return to normal. Just as the post-games comedown threatened to hit us, up popped this little treat from adidas. They’ve rallied the Team GB athletes and volunteers to sing along to the classic Queen track ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’. It’s an unusual project in many respects – the concept came directly from adidas, the job was turned around in three days and its spontaneity and playfulness reveals a very different side to the brand. We spoke to Steve Marks, Senior PR Manager at adidas, and freelance director, Philip Bloom to find out more about their very own Olympic closing ceremony.
LBB> Where did the idea to feature Team GB lip syncing along to Queen come from?
SM> Before the Olympics started adidas had made a big splash. We had the David Beckham photo shoot event, which was massive and a big success… I wanted to do something to say goodbye and mark the end of the Games. The idea only came about last week. I woke up on Thursday morning with the Andrea Bocelli song ‘Time To Say Goodbye’ playing in my head and I thought it would be great to have the athletes singing ‘goodbye’ to their supporters; we just had to find the right track.
LBB> And what do you think the film says about the relationship between adidas and the Olympics?
SM> I think it 100 per cent confirms adidas as the Olympic brand. The Olympics have caught the public’s imagination and I think this content has really put a smile on everyone’s face. I think it shows a different edge to adidas – with the current vibe in the UK we were able to have fun.
LBB> If the idea was only formed on Thursday then the timescale for the shoot must have been pretty tight. How did you get it made in such a short space of time?
SM> As soon as we came up with the concept we contacted The 10 Group, the guys behind the Beckham photo booth stunt… Within the first hour we had the rights to use the Queen track. If we’d had three months to plan this, it probably wouldn’t have happened but if you’re up against it you think on your feet. I have a friend with a direct line to Queen’s management; the timing was really good because obviously they were playing at the closing ceremony.
PB> I was out and about driving and I kept seeing my phone going off. It was Gideon Joseph from The 10 Group, but I didn’t have my hands free set for my phone, so I didn’t answer. They kept ringing and ringing so eventually I pulled over and answered it.
Before I agreed, I wanted to know what the plan was; what the location was and what athletes we’d have. Once I was confident we had the resources to make it happen I thought “yeah, let’s do it”. I spent Thursday evening going through the song line-by-line, to see which athlete might be more suitable for each lyric (although no one was 100% confirmed).
I spent a lot of time trying to source a steadicam operator at short notice. I was wearing two hats - director and DP; I had to make sure everything was in place. We couldn’t get into the location till 8 in the morning and the first athlete was supposed to turn up at 9.
LBB> How did you go about coaxing such energetic performances from the athletes, many of whom haven’t had too much experience with the media?
SM> Clearly, they’re athletes, they’re amazing at what they do. Some of them were natural performers. There were guests coming and going all day long in the media centre, watching what we were doing, which meant not only did they have to perform in front of a crew of 15, but that they had all of adidas’ global representatives watching them. They were all very individual – Louis Smith the gymnast was a proper showman. Like anything, until you’ve got the first part of a project in the bag, it’s hard to explain to people what you want them to do because you don’t have anything to show them. Pete Reid, the rower, was the first guy we shot - he is such a confident guy, which meant we had a one-minute clip of him to show everyone else.
PB> I performed for the athletes – the ones who were a bit shyer need me to coach them. It helped them to see me dancing around like an idiot. With the younger athletes I had to make them feel as comfortable as possible, and when there were lots of people around they did become a little embarrassed. I was told we were going to get Louis Smith and I didn’t realise that he’d been on X Factor. I was with him for an hour and we went through the whole track verse by verse, nailing it, just so that we’d have a base.
LBB> Aside from the obvious time issues, what were the challenges you faced?
SM> Pooling the resources of our team to make sure that we could get the athletes that we wanted was a challenge. We had already had Sir Chris Hoy the day before at a press conference, which was our only allotted time with him. He had other sponsor commitments and media interviews and we had to get him involved. The other challenge was the location, which was on the roof of a car park and was about half the size of a football pitch.
PB> Most of the athletes knew the chorus, but the verses were trickier because it’s the sort of thing that you think you know, but really you don’t. People like Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton had grown up with the song, but even the younger athletes who didn’t know the song so well were still aware of it. Louis Smith was quite funny, he said: “yeah I know this song, it’s the one they put on when we’re out clubbing, and when they put it on we leave”.
It was also a very busy location and we wanted to make it as neat and clean as possible. A lot of it was filmed in the car park and we just had to make it work; to embrace the quirkiness of the locations.
LBB> You spent Friday and Saturday shooting – what was the edit process like?
PB> It was impossible to storyboard and the idea of giving specific lines to specific people went out the window – we wanted to get as much footage as we could. The editor was on set making suggestions and laying stuff down, making a rough plan that we worked from. We started editing properly at eight o’clock on Saturday night. I was editing until three o’clock and then left the editor to polish it off. It was very full on – most people were out and about, so we had people checking the film on their iPhones. Thankfully people liked it. Can you imagine if someone had turned round and said ‘it’s ok but we should use a different song’?
I’ve seen online comments saying ‘why didn’t you include Daley or Mo Farah?’, but it comes down to the fact that we weren’t able to. Tom Daley was competing the night we were editing. We were watching him win bronze while nailing down our final shots. There were other people who had already left the country, people like Andy Murray. In an ideal world you want to be doing this from day one so you get every single person, but then that takes away the spontaneity and fun. This was a celebration. If we’d done it from the start of the Games, it would have been much more clinical and traditional.
LBB> What was your favourite moment of the project?
SM> I think it would probably be the look on everyone’s faces when we confirmed that we could get David Beckham. We put in a call at 11 o’clock in the morning and heard back at five pm. The film didn’t need any more gloss, but he’s such a great ambassador for the brand, so to secure him for ten minutes was great.
Also the flexibility of the team was great. To be able to turn the shoot around and edit that quickly is impressive. On Monday morning everyone was frazzled – we were running on pure adrenaline.
PB> I loved how Laura Trott got into it. At first she was so nervous, but I did my clowning routine and you could see her relax and start to enjoy it. I loved working with the volunteers because they were gagging to be in it. We’re not just celebrating those who won; the film was about everyone who took part. Hence, we had the shots with the volunteers – I think they brought a real energy to the set. They absolutely loved it. The last thing was working with Victoria Pendleton, she went through the song twice and I probably gave her the least direction. Most people I was shouting out directions, but with her, I just gave her some rough ideas and she played with it.
LBB> The project was pretty unusual, given that the idea came from Steve rather than an agency. How did that affect the shoot?
PB> Because there was no agency involved I was literally having conversations with Steve from adidas all the way through. That was wonderful. I could tell him what I needed and he would go and see what he could do. It made things so much faster than working through an ad agency – we just didn’t have time for that.
LBB> And you’re not irked at David Beckham stealing your thunder as the director at the end of the film?
PB> This is how I look at it… I’m credited as the director, and you see the director on screen at the end. If you think he looks a bit like David Beckham, well, I guess I must look like David Beckham [laughs]. I don’t want to deal with Victoria though. Actually, everyone knows that the real director doesn’t shout out action, that’s the first AD. So really Beckham was the first AD, though he was sitting in my chair.