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Toyota’s Paralympian Super Heroes

The Toyota Corporation’s ‘mobility for all’ philosophy, motivated their decision eight years ago to become the global mobility partner of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Their integrated campaigns of real life stories to promote the Paralympics and the remarkable paraplegic athletes that participate with such inspiring dedication and heroic fortitude, have fostered the creation of some highly memorable commercials.

How the idea of creating the Paralympic Games was born

After fleeing Germany in 1939, Jewish Neurosurgeon Ludwig Guttmann and his family settled in Oxford, England, and In 1944 he opened the first ever, spinal injuries unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire.

To coincide with the opening of the 1948 London Olympics, Ludwig decided to organise the first Stoke Mandeville Games on the lawn of the hospital with sixteen competing paraplegic athletes.

It turned out to be a groundbreaking event that caught the public’s attention, reverberated around the world, and led in 1960, to the formation of the first Paralympic Games held in Rome.

In honour of Ludwig Guttmann’s pioneering initiative and motivational endeavours, he received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II in 1996 at Buckingham Palace.

1. Toyota, Breaking Point

Advertising Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi, Sydney, Australia

The 16th Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, are scheduled to be held from 23 July to 8 August 2021, and the Paralympic Games, are scheduled for 24 August to 5 September 2021.

Directed by filmmaker Adam Gunser, the Paralympic ‘Breaking Point’ commercial features Australian wheelchair-rugby Paralympian, Ryley Batt.

And in keeping with their ‘mobility for all’ philosophy, Toyota’s product planning and development (PP&D) team worked closely with Ryley to identify the shortcomings of his wheelchair requirements that needed re-engineering for improved performance and durability.

On ‘The Stable’ website, Saatchi & Saatchi Australia’s chief creative officer Mike Spirkovski, made the following telling observation:

“It’s incredible to witness what these athletes go through in a game; how hard they play and push themselves, and the force they inflict on their equipment”.

2. Toyota, Upstream

Advertising Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi, Los Angeles, USA

Toyota’s ‘Upstream’ commercial for the 16th Summer Paralympic Games, features 13-time Paralympic gold medallist Jessica Long.

Directed by filmmaker Tarsem Singh, I regard ‘Upstream’ to be an imaginatively portrayed, 60 second masterpiece, of true-life storytelling.

When the Siberian adoption agency warned Jessica’s adoptive parents in the USA that she was born without fibulas, ankles and heels, her mother remarkably responded by saying; “It might not be easy, but it’ll be amazing. I can’t wait to meet her.”

Thanks to the unwavering love and support of her parents, Jessica made her inspiring Paralympic debut in 2014, when she was just 12 years old, after enduring the hardship and suffering of having both legs amputated below the knees.

3. Toyota, Good Odds

Advertising Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi, Los Angeles, USA, and Dentsu, Tokyo, Japan

Toyota’s ‘Good Odds’ commercial for the 2018 Paralympics Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, was aired during the American Super Bowl Football Championship’s live TV broadcast.

In line with Toyota’s corporate communication platform of being a solutions provider of mobility for all, the commercial highlighted their mission of going beyond automotive technology to include innovations such as wearable robotic leg braces.

Directed by filmmaker Aoifle McArdie, the commercial features Canadian Paralympic skier Lauren Wollstencroft, who tenaciously beat the odds to become the winner of 8 Paralympic gold medals.

The soundtrack features the song “Stronger Than I’ve Ever Been” by American songwriter, singer, and actress, Kaleena Zanders.

4. Toyota’s Start Your Impossible, Ntando Mahlangu

Advertising Agency: FCB, Johannesburg, South Africa

Toyota’s award-winning, integrated ‘Start Your Impossible’ campaign series, for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, consist of real-life mobility stories about passionate dedication and fortitude, that can make what seems impossible, rewardingly attainable.

Directed by filmmaker Kevin Fitzgerald, this ‘Start Your Impossible’ real-life story, features the remarkable South African Paralympic athlete Ntando Mahlangu.

At the age of just 14, he represented South Africa at the 2016 Summer Paralympics held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he won the silver medal in the men’s 200 metres T42 event. And In 2019, Ntando qualified to represent South Africa at the 2021 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan.

Born with hemimelia, which meant his legs didn’t fully develop below the knees, Ntando spent much of his early life in a wheelchair, but courageously took the decision in 2012, to have both his legs amputated at the knees. And In September that year, he received his first set of mobility-blades through the South African ‘Jumping Kids’ charity, and since then, hasn’t looked back.

5. Toyota’s Start Your Impossible, Lily Rice

Advertising Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi, Los Angeles, USA

Directed by filmmaker Rune Milton, and filmed in Rome, and a former soviet transit terminal in Kiev, the commercial features 15 year old UK teen Lilly Rice’s quest, with the help of Toyota, to promote the sport of WCMX (wheelchair motor cross) globally in pursuit of her Paralympic dreams.

A sufferer of Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (a rare genetic disease that causes weakness and stiffness in the leg muscles), Lilly, astoundingly for her young age, is the first-ever female to propel her wheelchair down a sheer 14 foot skate-park ramp, and only the second-ever paraplegic athlete to complete a back somersault in a wheelchair.

6. Toyota’s Start Your Impossible, Rebecca Bellander

Advertising Agency: The&Partnership Nordics, Stockholm, Sweden

At the age of 16 Rebecka Sternisa Bellander was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that in just two days paralysed her from the waist down. Her high school football-playing passion came to an abrupt end, and she turned to tennis as her saviour sport.

Though courageous determination she won five Swedish championships, is ranked number 45 in the world in wheelchair tennis, and is aiming for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

As a part of her preparations, Toyota, The&Partnership Nordics, and the Swedish Paralympic Committee, arranged a wheelchair tennis match for her against tennis player Jonas Björkman, winner of 54 titles in doubles and 6 titles in singles, who graciously played against her in a wheelchair as to not have an unfair advantage.

In a toughly fought game, 24-year-old Rebecka managed to outclass Jonas, who on the ‘lbbonline’ website remarked; “I thank Rebecka for the lesson and acknowledge my defeat. I am truly impressed by her talent and I wish her the best of luck on her journey to the Paralympics. Hopefully many, like me, will be very inspired by her.

Directed by filmmaker Mauri R. Chifflét, the commercial aims to highlight the enormous talent that exists in para sports and encourage other athletes to follow Rebecka’s exemplary fortitude in starting their own ‘impossible’.