Cartwheels and Handstands: What Gymnastics Training Taught Me About Advertising

September 9, 2015
September 9, 2015 Full Contact

Making Full Contact may be our agency philosophy, but we couldn’t bring it to life for our clients if the people that work here didn’t also live Full Contact lives. We challenge convention, push boundaries, and think and act creatively not just Monday through Friday from 9-5, but every day, all day.

How do we do it, you ask? Some of us are budding chefs, others talented musicians, sports sages, marathoners or even gymnasts. And what we found is our lives outside the office fuel our lives inside the office. In fact, there are many parallels between our personal and professional Full Contact worlds.
So, we thought it might be interesting to ask our talented Full Contact-ers to share a bit about the kind of Full Contact they make outside of work and relate it back to their everyday jobs.
Let’s start with Hannah Black, an Account Coordinator by day and gymnast by night, as she compares in-store signage and radio spots with cartwheels and handstands. In her words:
I have been a gymnast all my life. My family says I was born for it; my physique is naturally compact and strong, built for tumbling. I competed as a youth all the way through college on a club team. Today, I still hit the gym a few times per week to practice with my recreational competitive team in Cambridge.

Oddly enough, my hobby and my profession have a lot in common.

Be creative to stand out.
In gymnastics, there are set requirements each routine needs to include depending on the gymnast’s level. For example, every competitor from beginner to Olympian is required to have at least one 365-degree turn on the balance beam. Most gymnasts increase the level of difficulty by putting their own twist (yes, I made a pun) on the requirement, adding more rotations, creative placement of the leg, etc. While the pieces of every routine are the same, style and creativity set one gymnast apart from another.

Similarly, the right use of creativity and emotion can be what sets a campaign apart from the pack. One example is the “Feeding without the Drama” campaign that we created for Tommee Tippee. We found a “sea of sameness” among the competitive set: ads featuring babies happily feeding with a calm, stress-free mom. Our research showed that this isn’t always the case; our aim was to create a realistic, humorous and striking campaign to better connect with moms and capture their attention.

Tommee Tippee – Feeding Time Without the Drama from Full Contact Advertising on Vimeo.

Play to your strengths.
When preparing for a competition, coaches and gymnasts work together to develop a routine that meets the requirements while playing to the gymnasts’ strengths. For example, what I lack in balletic grace, I more than make up for in power. My coaches recognized this early and as a result developed endurance workouts and routines to hone my strength. As a result, where many gymnasts need to begin their floor tumbling pass with a quick sprint, my strength allows me to pack in more “tricks” because I don’t need to build momentum at the beginning.

Like a gymnasts’ coach, an agency’s job is to help shine a light on the client’s strengths, providing a clear and authentic point of difference. In the case of D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches, we were tasked with re-igniting the brand’s personality. Our research led us to a singular point of difference: D’Angelo unapologetically provides big, meaty grilled sandwiches. This insight provided the foundation not only for the campaign, but also for a completely new look and feel for the brand from the inside out.










Take (calculated) risks. 
Any competitive gymnast will tell you that taking risks is part of the sport. It is always a delicate balance between playing it safe at a meet with skills you’ve mastered, and taking a risk with a new skill—perhaps something with a higher level of difficulty to increase your score. These risks don’t always pay off, but when they do, they can make history. For example, Nadia Comaneci turned heads in the 1976 Olympic games. At age 14, Comaneci became the first woman to score a perfect 10. In this case, a calculated risk changed the sport, and Comaneci had two skills named after her. To this day, one of those skills maintains a high level of difficulty on the uneven bars.


Image credit

Sometimes it takes risk to stand out in advertising as well. On the heels of successfully launching Farmhouse Blend hot coffee for Cumberland Farms, we knew that we would need to work with our client to create an equally impactful campaign to launch Iced Farmhouse Blend. With a keen understanding of the brand’s personality and our target audience, we took a calculated risk and enlisted the help of an unlikely spokesperson: David Hasselhoff. The risk paid off and resulted in a campaign that took on a life of its own, while driving sales like crazy.

Cumberland Farms “Thirsty For Your Love” :60 from Full Contact Advertising on Vimeo.

Although I am not a famous, medal-decorated Olympian, I still know the ins and outs of the sport and the strategies for being a good competitor. In my eyes it’s all about getting out there and showing the judges what you can do, highlighting your strengths and taking some risks along the way. The marketing world is very much a similar environment. I have realized as I chalk up my grips each week for practice that my career and passion are not so different after all.


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