4 Lessons from an Award-Winning Digital Campaign that Made a Difference

"We're not disabled. We're super abled." This message, and a groundbreaking campaign created around it, had lasting impact—impact that we discussed and learned from at our recent Smart Social London event. Joined by Christos Savvides, Senior Digital Producer at 4Creative, the in-house agency of Channel 4 and Shananne Lane, Executive Producer at Channel 4, Spredfast dug into how the campaign—created to promote Channel 4’s coverage of the 2016 Paralympic Games—made such an incredible impact. We’ll explain why, and what all brands can learn from the campaign, as well.

The Superhumans: A Super Story

On the heels of a perception-changing 2012 advertisement, Channel 4 knew they had set a high bar to meet ahead of the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio. The team started with a core idea of redefining the term disability itself. “[We wanted to] redefine this negative term, saying that you don’t have an ability—taking the ‘dis’ out of that connotation,” Lane says. “It was a simple idea: celebrating human ability over disability.”

They gathered a group of athletes and non-athletes, bringing them together in one short film set to a track called “Yes I Can.” The campaign’s goal, ultimately, was to get more people to watching the 2016 Rio Paralympic games. “Otherwise it’s pointless,” explained Lane. “Our goal was really about changing the world—we wanted to change the global perceptions of disability.”

Our goal was to change the global perceptions of disability.


The superhuman part of the story came as the casting process continued: “The more we met the athletes, the more we realized that there were these incredible human stories behind it—that their disabilities weren’t part of their struggle, that that part of the struggle was over,” explained Lane. “The only thing they had to overcome was being the best possible athlete they could.”

Originally, the team thought they wanted a rap or rock track to set the ad to. Instead, their partner delivered a swing track, and the team was delighted to see how the music fit the upbeat message of the ad. After an “enormous” casting process, Channel 4 ended up with more than 140 disabled people starring in an incredible message, doing everything from everyday activities to jaw-dropping stunts:

Super Results

The campaign and short film takes the Paralympic spirit of ability and applies it to all walks of life. Social was also at the heart of the campaign—the three-minute film premiered on three social media channels: Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter. Then, Channel 4 hosted a launch event, inviting the stars and celebrities to a real-life premiere and asking them to share on social. The result? The campaign was trending within ten minutes.

Eventually, the campaign went on to garner 39 million views across social platforms, and has been shared over 1 million times. Finally, as the Rio Games approached, Channel 4 also incorporated memorable moments from the 2012 games—that perfect mix of both nostalgia and anticipation.

The results were impressive:

  • 6.5 million youtube views
  • 40 million video views on Facebook
  • Organic reach of over 100 million

Three Points of Inspiration all Brands can Draw from Channel 4

1. If you’re going to talk the talk with a piece of content, walk the walk:

To ensure the campaign was both inclusive and accessible, Channel 4 also created a signed, subtitled, and audio-described version of the film. Channel 4 shared these versions on social, but also encouraged relevant organizations to share them, too. They also targeted relevant audiences on Youtube with the accessible versions of the film.

2. Never be afraid to repurpose:

Channel 4 also created social content based on the video’s all-star cast, with a social series of “superhuman stories”—introducing the ad sponsor stars who were Paralympians, but also those who were not. Everything they did included the hashtag “superhumans” and was pushed to the campaign hub, which housed all content. The team didn’t just create GIFs from their videos—they created more than 100 assets across social platforms. But the GIFs were particularly suited to the content, Savvides said: “All of these humans are so incredibly talented that when you actually turn it into a GIF you see it over and over again, you have a little bit more of a moment to read and absorb them, which I think is really nice.”

The Channel 4 team also crafted interviews with the cast:

3. When in doubt, trust your gut:

How can you tell when you’ve actually made something moving? Look inward, to see if it moves you. “You’ve got to let it be what it is when it really gets you [emotionally] because if it gets you it probably means it’s going to get other people as well, and sometimes that can be scary,” Lane said. “But, you have to stay true to it through everything else.”

4. A good story is every bit as important as the right channel to tell it on:

A final piece of advice from the Channel 4 team? Don’t fixate so much on what works by channel that you lose sight of the power of story. Savvides admits that his team stressed for a while about how the ad would perform on social, worrying: “Oh, but it’s a song, it won’t work on social, no one’s going to share it, no one’s going to watch it.” Instead, Savvides advises: “Step back and think, is this something that you would share on social? Is this something that you would watch? I think that’s a pretty good gauge on shareable content on social.”

We couldn’t agree more. Stay tuned to the blog in coming weeks for more content highlights from our recent Smart Social London event, and join us in Austin in October for even more tips on connecting your content to the audience you care about most.

June 8, 2017
Social Media Monetization: Why Audience Focus Brings More Value
June 12, 2017
Spredfast Named A Leader in New Forrester Wave™: Social Media Management Systems, Q2 2017
Jaime Netzer is Spredfast's Senior Content Marketing Manager, leading content operations. A Lawrence, Kansas native, she traded seasons for breakfast tacos seven years ago and hasn't looked back since. Also a fiction writer and journalist, Jaime tweets semi-regularly and reads constantly.