New BBC Winter Olympics film is epic but unemotional

The BBC’s new trailer for its Winter Olympics coverage is full of drama and bombast. But it’s oddly unmoving too.

The BBC’s new trailer for its Winter Olympics coverage is full of drama and bombast. But it’s oddly unmoving too.

The film is the work of ad agency RKCR/Y&R and is in keeping with the previous films they have made for the Olympics on the BBC, which always present the Games in epic terms. Whereas in the past, these films have featured stunning animation (Pete Candeland’s film for the 2012 London Olympics and Marc Craste’s work for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics are shown below), this latest piece opts for a kind of fantasy vision, featuring footage of snowy mountains accompanied by a booming voiceover by Charles Dance. The mood is dark, with the athletes pitched against the very forces of nature itself.

It’s all very dramatic, and undoubtedly will get viewers to look up from their mobile phones when the film plays out on TV, but it lacks any of the emotional connection that we’ve seen in alternative Olympics advertising of late. Part of the success of Meet The Superhumans, Channel 4’s Paralympics spot from the 2012 Games which picked up multiple awards, lay in its ability to present the games as dramatic and exciting but also with a personal edge – the athletes were placed centre stage, and the film alluded to some of their back stories. P&G’s Thank You Mom Olympics campaign similarly focuses on the hardships that athletes endure in order to reach the Games. It may have a saccarine overtone that is unappealing to some, but the campaign is rooted in the human aspect of the Olympics.

The Beeb’s work by comparison seems cold and unrealistic, and almost feels like an advertisement for a new drama series rather than a sporting event. While this was presumably the intention, a little more humanity at the heart of it wouldn’t have gone astray. Plus, this ad only seems to focus on the high-octane events such as skiing or ice hockey. What place, for example, does curling have in this monumental battle against nature?

Agency: RKCR/Y&R
ECD: Mark Roalfe
Creatives: Barnaby Blackburn, Gustavo Kopit
Production companies: Stink/Red Bee Media
Director: Tomek Baginski

  • Gary

    I love it, the i dont think its such a bad thing you feel no emotional connection to the athletes, unlike the Olympics most of the athletes are covered in protective gear, helmets and and overalls, to the point they are unrecognisable, so why not play on this…

    The winter olympics is so far removed from most of us anyway, im not interested in the fact they are real people too, they are a insanely brave and talented maniacs competing not just against each other but against nature itself! i say celebrate that!

  • Alan

    I’m not sure I agree. For one this is the first Olympics campaign for the BBC I can remember where the ad had an idea. It’s true that nature is something that the athletes must conquer to achieve victory.

    On the emotional side I agree with Gary. We don’t always need to have these mini biopics about the athletes. As you’ve clearly written, it’s been done several times before. And anyway I think it’s really emotional. Is excitement an emotion? I think so.

  • auditorium closed


  • GrandfatherSteel

    Epic russian heavyweight. Perfect fit. Where is a place for “Thank you, Mom” here? It is Putin’s Winter.

  • JacquiUk

    I just looked at the Channel Four Paralympics advert again – what a fantastic advert, it brings tears to my eyes, pride to my heart and all the fantastic memories of the Event come flooding back.

  • Fran

    I don’t know what I think, really – the GoT/LOTR influence (right down to using Tywin Lannister for the VO) seems a little bandwagon-jumpy, but it’s certainly visually strong and will raise interest in the Summer Olympics’ less-followed sibling.

    Part of me wishes they’d taken the “emotional” route, purely because I know next to nothing about Britain’s winter-sport athletes, and it would’ve been a golden opportunity to hero a few of them. But a tough call to make. It looks wonderful, at any rate.

  • John

    Yes very Lord of the Rings meets Troll Hunter but I really like it. I’ve no doubt the beeb have ads for the individual sports during the Olympics – speed skating, oooof!

  • tofurky

    Bit cold.

  • lydia

    Perfect reflection of Putin’s attitude both to his people and the rest of the world, just listen to the poem. “I’ll tell you when to jump and I’ll dictate how high”. Super trolling from the BBC, well done!

    I agree with GrandfatherSteel above:

    Epic russian heavyweight. Perfect fit. Where is a place for “Thank you, Mom” here? It is Putin’s Winter.

  • N mott

    Who wrote the poem? Can’t find a credit for the poet anywhere.

  • Dan

    I’m afraid I also will have to disagree with you Eliza. This advert is truly moving and creates the tense excitement the Winter Olympics deserves and earns through quite epic events!

    Pitting nature against man can create powerful emotional connections with consumers as it has been something that man has fought since the dawn of time. We have also all seen these epic disaster movies and can consciously relate to being in that sort of situation. It’s sort of like climbing Everest or another mountain. It is dangerous and commands respect!

    It also moves away from the summer Olympics which is a bit more of a spectacle and fun and drives home the point that the Winter Olympics is serious, hard and cold.

    I love the advert and think RKCR/Y&R have done a great job! I also love Gary’s point about being unattached to the Olympians and then playing on that.

  • Matt

    I think there are a couple of points in the comments that make sense, but the thought overall that “emotion” has to come into it I disagree with. There is a rawness to this production as there is also to the Sochi olympics. Connecting emotionally to anyone taking part is highly unlikely given that the majority of us never engage in any of these winter sports and I doubt many people in the UK know any of the Brits competing.

    And does that really matter? The reason the 2012 ad was so emotional was because it was about home turf and something happening right here in the UK.

    RKCR have got this completely right.

  • Trisha

    The video looks interesting, but with no subtitles, I have no clue as to what it is about!

  • Deb

    Who wrote the poem??? The advert is amazing. The impression it gives to me is ‘No matter how hard you train, how much sarcrifice you make to get where you are in your sport – it’s up to me, nature, to grant you permission to win – it’s winter – it’s Russia – it’s going to be tough. The poem is brilliant and Charles Dance (and those of us over 30 know has done a LOT more than Game of Thrones :-)) was a brilliant choice. The ad worked – I wouldn’t have bothered to watch the winter Olympics – however, I will now. Well done to the team who did this ad – you should be very pleased with yourselves, you’ve got people talking about it

  • Crix


    What with the man-made ice rinks, ski runs, bobsleigh runs, ski jumps and half pipes…

    Or are you telling me that a vert half-pipe is a natural phenomenon!!!

    The adverts dull by the way…

  • Shez

    I disagree with the article, it’s a powerful and emotional ad which i think really connects me with the emotions of the athletes. The BBC have made a great choice because so few of the winter athletes are big household names so it would be pointless for them to promote it.

    Of course a vert half-pipe isn’t a natural phenomena (not in such a perfect state at least) but it’s the natural conditions and environment which help to make a standard half pipe that bit more challenging. Trying to see the stunts (And due to the conditions many crashes) being performed on it by the skiers yesterday through sheeting snow, you could barely see them… now that’s the power of nature.

    It makes me feel connected to the athletes with such a strong impression of what they’re facing and feeling during the event. I do believe this as was a big factor in engaging me and making me want to watch the Olympic coverage which I had not expected.