In the past year or so we’ve seen the rise of the ordinary man. Leaders who either hide in ivory towers or distance themselves from citizens have experienced a rude awakening. Hyper connectivity allowed groups to organize and unite and the sheer mass of middle and working classes allowed them the power of the Arab Spring, the London Riots and the Occupy movement. Even Time Magazine had ‘The Protester’ as person of the year.
But in terms of branding there aren’t many narratives that can tap into this struggle story without being blatantly political. Nelson Mandela and Malcolm X might be excellent ambassadors to tell the story of extraordinary achievement in the face of a powerful antagonist, but those icons come with baggage and they invite chapters of history that can tie brands into narratives they’d rather avoid. It’s difficult to cherry pick from powerful icons. That is unless those cherries are strong enough to take us in another direction.
The boxing underworld turned into pop iconography when Sylvester Stallone first ran the 72 steps outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art. That scene alone became one of 101 Most Awesome Moments in Entertainment. Along with the mumbled cry for Adrian (his love interest at the time), grey tracksuits on frosty mornings and a dedicated (and often less vocal) support team, Rocky Balboa managed to lay the foundations for a vocabulary that would echo through generations, telling the story of any underdog who passionately fights for an admirable cause.
Nelson Mandela’s drive for equality was reflected in this sport that he excelled in before the world knew him as South Africa’s first democratic president. In his book A Long Walk to Freedom he notes: “Boxing is egalitarian. In the ring, rank, age, colour and wealth are irrelevant. When you are circling your opponent, probing his strengths and his weaknesses, you are not thinking about his colour or social status”.
Amstel quietly reflects this sentiment by telling this story using the imagery of decades of boxing movies while stirring in a strong South African feel.
The Boxer shows hard work, dedication, community support and community life. It looks at a successful life and talks to the time it takes to become great. In a society where the ‘something for nothing’ myth is often the bedrock of aspirations and self-respect, it’s refreshing to see a commercial where the quick route fails dismally and where a community and social responsibility build greatness. It speaks of true change and transformation. It’s not the type of transformation that is given, but the type that is built over years.