Dick's Sporting Goods is going big with its minute-long commercial by Anomaly for the Opening Ceremonies of the Rio Olympics, focusing on the chemical makeup of all life in the history of the universe.
That might include building blocks like carbon and calcium, but the retailer is most fascinated by a much smaller component of the human body—the minuscule amount of gold in all of us.
There are about 0.2 milligrams of the precious yellow metal in every human, the spot points out. But only a select few souls can magic that amount into an Olympic medal, it continues—a conclusion that, at least in spirit, is hard to contest.
Mixed in among elemental footage of outer space and billowing smoke and sputtering magma are the obligatory intense-training shots of four Olympians—Kerri Walsh-Jennings (beach volleyball), Claressa Shields (boxing), Daryl Homer (fencing) and Danell Leyva (gymnastics)—as well as one Paralympian—Lex Gillette (long jump)—who will all be competing in this year's Games.
Also featured are two hopefuls—Laura Ryan (diving) Kristin Smith (hammer throw)—who did not qualify during trials but are employed by the retailer as part of its "Contenders" program, which promises participants flexible work hours and competitive pay to support their training schedules. (The Team USA sponsor is also promising $1,000 to youth sports groups for each medal the country's athletes win in Brazil this year.)
The alchemical upshot of the commercial is ambitious, even for a global event on the scale of the Olympics. (Some other advertisers have chosen to zero in on the personal sacrifices in more detailed ways, without sacrificing grandiosity.) But the copy here crescendos so dazzlingly that it's hard to begrudge its shameless grasp at profundity. Removed from the context of high hopes among athletes and fans alike, it might ring as pretentious or absurd; instead, the mix of curious fact, inspiring metaphor and deft film craft manage to land, at least at first blush, as exciting.
Plus, there are worse ways to sell sporting gear than suggesting that each viewer has the potential, somewhere deep inside, to maybe, just maybe, be that good too—if he or she would just get up off the couch.