The Dancing Flame

Adidas encourages India to support unconventional sports and athletes in its Fan The Fire campaign

He pirouettes across the ice – spinning and spinning – till he finishes with an elegant landing. The ice skating rink sits empty at the crack of the dawn. There are no crowds to cheer for him, except for his mother writing to him from India. Who is this athlete, you ask? Nishchay Luthra, an 18-year-old Indian figure skater. And bringing to light Nishchay’s story is Adidas’ initiative, ‘Fan the Fire’.

There is no pretending that in our country, cricket often overshadows other sports. In this case, figure skating — especially in the men’s category. Luthra, a nine-time national gold medallist, is now training for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Florida, and has to seek funding.

“Nishchay’s compelling story — of being a world class figure skater, yet virtually unknown to his own countrymen — was the perfect vehicle to launch our 'Fan the Fire' initiative,” says Sean Van Wyk, senior marketing director (brand director), Adidas India.

‘Fan the fire’ is the first campaign by Adidas India that does not feature a prominent face such as Virat Kohli, its former brand ambassador. Nonetheless, the latest ad film with Luthra at the helm focuses on Adidas’ core theme, ‘Impossible is nothing’.

Vijay Simha, group creative director, Cheil India says, “A year ago, we came across stories in the newspaper of sportspersons who had won medals but were leading a hard life. It was disturbing to read about. So we wondered if we could use the power of social media to help the not-so-fortunate. Nishchay’s story moved us — that someone so young, that too from India, had taken up something like ice-skating.”

But it can’t be ignored that Adidas’ ‘Fan the Fire’ was released not too long after Nike’s ‘Da da ding’ campaign that shined a spotlight on women in sports. The head-to-head between the two rival brands is still evident, even if disguised under a good-intentioned initiative like ‘Fan the Fire’.

Adidas’ Van Wyk comments, “Fan the Fire isn’t an advertising pursuit; we will be very happy if this can lead to a collective war cry where other brands, people, athletes, all step in. The idea behind this initiative was to create a ripple effect, which cuts beyond simply delivering the ad message.”

The campaign was an instant hit on social media upon release. Simha further adds, “What Nike did was an advertisement. But Adidas’ Fan the Fire is not an ad — it is about taking up the case of an underdog like Luthra and telling his story. It is a very bold move for a brand and that makes our campaign different.”

All said and done, here's to hoping that this will be a cue to support sports that go beyond cricket.