BITE Focus

Sometimes the toughest opponents are the ones you can’t see

How AMV BBDO and the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) redefined strength to break the silence surrounding male suicide.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director

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Suicide remains the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK. Addressing the male mental health crisis and puncturing the stigma of silence that surrounds masculinity is at the heart of a new campaign starring Tyson Fury, created by AMV BBDO and Total Health agency Seven Stones. 

The groundbreaking campaign, for suicide prevention charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) digitally removes opponent Deontay Wilder from footage of their bout and features the strapline; ‘Don’t fight it alone’’.

The campaign features the fighter moving around the ring throwing and evading punches. His skin visibly rippled with the force of the blows; powerfully bringing to life the real world harm of mental health challenges. Challenges and battles that all too often remain invisible and unseen. 

The spot shows two big blows knock Fury to the floor before he lifts himself back up, ready to fight on as the strapline “Sometimes the toughest opponents are the ones you can’t see’ appears before the words “Don’t fight it alone” and the CALM helpline number (see below).

The ad was overseen by Ben Hawley. Marketing & Communications Director at CALM and Dipika Saggi, Head of Brand and Marketing. With AMV’s Alex Grieve as Chief Creative Officer and Zac Ellis acting as both Creative Director and writer of the majestic spot. 

The campaign was introduced on ITV during last Friday’s Love Island and will be supported by Video on Demand and YouTube spots, as well as a nationwide outdoor advertising campaign backed by JCDecaux. 

Social media activity will focus on the core film and engage influencers to drive reach and to encourage conversation about the topic, using the hashtag #InvisibleOpponent.

Creativity for good

Simon Gunning, CEO of CALM said: “In the UK, 125 people die by suicide every week - with 75% of those deaths being male. That’s not okay, and it doesn’t have to be that way. That's why now, more than ever, we must continue to challenge the stigma that prevents people from seeking the help they need.”

He continued: “Like many of us, Tyson Fury has fought invisible opponents. And we hope this campaign starts a new conversation about the impact of mental health challenges - because the more we talk about it, the more we normalise being open about what we’re going through, the more we can get support when we need it. We want to inspire people who might be going through tough times to take that first, crucial step and reach out to family, friends, or the CALM helpline before they reach the point of crisis. Whatever your battle, CALM is here, in your corner.”

The campaign’s power lies in so clearly bringing to life  the toxic myth which continues to contribute to the male mental health epidemic; namely that talking about mental health is a sign of weakness. This campaign eloquently punctures this myth while also encouraging people to seek help if they are struggling. 

Dan Russell, Managing Director at Seven Stones and Joe Smith, Strategy Partner at AMV BBDO, added: “We wanted to use the context of sport, an area where men are more comfortable expressing their emotions, to start a new conversation about the impact of mental health. We’ve had this idea as a team ever since Tyson stood up at BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2018 and spoke about his challenges with mental health.”

They continued: “If the big heavyweight champion of the world can talk about it, then anyone can. Removing the opponent from Tyson’s fight footage was a compelling way to visualise how mental health can feel. It’s a powerful message that we hope will make people stand up and take notice of the battles we all face from time to time with our mental health.’

 

We want to inspire people who might be going through tough times to take that first, crucial step and reach out to family, friends, or the CALM helpline before they reach the point of crisis.

Simon Gunning, CEO of CALM

The power of authentic ambassadors

The authenticity of the campaign is rooted in the way in which Fury has spoken in the past about his own struggles with mental health and how close he came to suicide. 

For as the team behind the campaign recognised immediately when Fury spoke onstage, he delivered his biggest victory out of the ring; by choosing to use the spotlight to break the taboo that still surrounds mental health. 

In an interview with the BBC, Fury explained: “No matter what you've been through in your life and no matter what you are going through, you must always, always get up and keep going forward and fight back.”

He continued: "We need to spread the word on mental health more in sport. There are a lot of people living in darkness and are too afraid to come out and speak about it in public. But if I can do it, anybody can do it, a big heavyweight champion, I’m supposed to be a tough guy.”

Creativity for change 

The standout campaign underlines CALM’s strong commitment to creativity as a core driver for changing behaviour. 

Notably, CALM previously teamed up with adam&eveDDB, ITV and Harry’s to create 84 sculptures to represent the 84 men who take their own life every week in the UK. The emotive sculptures, which were placed on the top of the ITV building on the Southbank in London, sent a powerful message that gave people, especially men, the confidence to start talking openly about their mental health. 

CALM’s CEO Simon Gunning has a background in advertising and marketing (he was a partner at BBH and has worked at brands including Bacardi). He believes in the last few years there has been a surge in sympathy and embracing of the subject matter from the general public. CALM no longer has just a singular mission but has “expanded to be something much more like a popular movement.” The award-winning Project 84 campaign was also the catalyst for the government’s decision to appoint a suicide prevention minister and launch the Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit.

With the global pandemic placing huge pressure on the NHS, as well as contributing to a surge of calls to CALM’s helpline, the charity’s services have never been more vital. For the truth of the words ‘Sometimes the toughest opponents are the ones you can’t see’ are far greater than just a pithy marketing strapline. The mental health crisis is the second pandemic; one that this kind of creative work will ensure we recognise and respond to.