adidas rallies global sporting community to play with more heart and harness the power of the game in new film narrated by athlete and icon, Siya Kolisi
adidas has unveiled Ready for Sport: The Anthem, a powerful campaign film that reflects on recent sporting history to celebrate the true magnitude of what it brings to the world. With a bold opening line exclaiming sport might not be the answer, the film goes on to explore how it can bring communities together as we see a montage of raw emotion, dedication and exhilaration through leading global athletes.
The 60-second film is narrated by South African rugby icon, Siya Kolisi, who made history as the first Black man to be appointed Test captain of the South African team in 129 years of rugby, and with sheer determination, led the South African Rugby team as they were crowned world champions against England in 2019. His personal journey of growing up in the impoverished township of Zwide to captaining the national team embodies adidas’ belief that sport has the power to change lives.
“Sports might not be the answer right now, but it teaches us that impossible challenges must be faced and overcome,” says Kolisi. “Now that sport is back, we can’t waste this chance. We should be playing with more heart and more fire, because nobody knows what the future holds. Opportunities will come, and we must be ready”
Kolisi’s poignant message is echoed to athletes in the film against a backdrop of scenes including Paul Pogba scoring the winning penalty with seconds to go, Noah Lyles racing to finish line and going for gold, Caroline Dubois practicing her knockout in the boxing ring, and Candace Parker’s steely focus as she practices her shot – showcasing the sheer optimism and excitement that sport can bring to elite and every day athletes alike.
Florian Alt, Vice President, Brand Communications, Global Brands at adidas, said, “With the world thrust into the unknown, sport has been the one constant, fuelling people with joy and optimism. We brought our community together with a positive outlook through workouts, and a series that humanises our sports icons by offering unprecedented access into their hearts and minds. Now, we want to inspire our community to get back in the game, master their craft and play like never before. We chose Siya to narrate the film because his story serves as a reminder that sport has the power to bring hope – he is the true embodiment of how maintaining focus can lead to greatness.”
While sport has started returning to screens, one element is still missing for athletes and spectators alike: the stadium experience. Coinciding with the release of Ready for Sport: The Anthem, adidas has created an immersive Ready for Sport face filter on Instagram that brings this to life. In a digital-first, the innovation allows consumers to relive the live sport experience virtually, placing them inside the stadium where they can hear the roar of the crowds once again by closing their eyes. The filter will be live on @adidas Instagram from Monday 17 August until Monday 7 September.
Since the Ready for Sport campaign launched in March this year, adidas has engaged over 3,000 athletes and artists to support the hearts, minds and bodies of the community. With a 300% spike in social conversation following the announcement that team sports would be returning, The Anthem is the culmination of the Ready for Sport story so far and seeks to inspire the community, sparking feelings of joy and optimism for what lies ahead.
READY FOR SPORT: THE ANTHEM
Siya Kolisi Bio & Q&A
Ready for Sport: The Anthem is the culmination of adidas’ 18-part Ready for Sport episodic series, featuring a line-up of global athletes and narrated by South African rugby icon, Siya Kolisi, whose incredible journey from township to team captain demonstrates the true transformative power of sport.
Behind-the-scenes, Kolisi delves into his personal journey and discusses with adidas how sport might not be the answer, but it has the potential to bring individuals and communities together. As athletes face unprecedented struggles and time on the bench, Kolisi’s story serves as a reminder that it’s important to stay ready, because pushing forward and maintaining focus can lead to greatness.
SIYA KOLISI BIO
Siya Kolisi is captain of the South Africa national rugby team, and currently regarded as the most influential person in the sport by Rugby World Magazine. In 2018, Kolisi made history as the first Black man to be appointed Test captain of the South African team in 129 years of rugby, and with sheer determination, led the South African Rugby team as they were crowned world champions against England.
Born in the impoverished township of Zwide, Kolisi spent much of his days nurturing his rugby on dirt fields, often barefoot. He has openly expressed the challenges and hardships he has faced over the last 29 years as well as the growing pain that South Africa has encountered, and yet he continues to rise above them, creating hope for multiple generations to come.
A hero on and off the field, Kolisi is involved in philanthropic endeavours to help better serve his community and the world. In March 2020 he co-founded the Kolisi Foundation, with the support of management agency Roc Nation, with the mission to help alleviate extreme poverty, mentor underprivileged youth and promote equality. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Foundation has fed more than 25,000 families and provided vital PPE to front-line health workers, collaborating with organisations such as the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Siya Kolisi is an icon of substance who has overcome every adversity in life, with a story that continues to inspire and captivate the world.
SIYA KOLISI Q&A
What are your thoughts of getting back to being ready for Rugby?
Siya Kolisi: It feels like when I was a kid. You’re training and preparing for an opportunity, but you don’t know when it’s going to come.
You’ve got to be ready for the opportunity. If the opportunity comes and you’re not ready, you’ll regret it. I’m excited to get back to rugby – I’m really hungry to get back onto the field. For now, I’m using every opportunity I have to get ready.
What are you most looking forward to, and what is going to be different?
Siya Kolisi: I’m looking forward to the camaraderie and friendship – the talks with my teammates. Working hard together and just helping each other out and having conversations around the changing room. Getting on the field and getting that first big hit and high fiving someone; or getting smashed and pretending it wasn’t sore.
Not having people watch us will be a big challenge because that support is really important to us. We feed off the energy of our supporters, so we’ll need each other even more as teammates – we’ll need to be closer and tighter to get that energy from one another.
How have you managed to stay patient during this pause in sport?
Siya Kolisi: It’s something I have in me, I’m really a patient person even at home. It’s something I’ve learned even with my kids.
Control the controllable. There’s nothing you can do about something you can’t control. Just stay focused on what you can control, and everything will fall into place.
Don’t think too far ahead. Take things day by day and and focus on what’s happening right now.
Tell us about the inspiring work you’ve done off the pitch to inspire and create opportunities for children and women in South Africa.
Siya Kolisi: I’m passionate about helping kids and women. I wish I had the same opportunities in Zwide that I had when I went to Grey High School. I really believe every single kid deserves the opportunity to have a choice whether they want to study where they were raised or choose to go study somewhere else.
It’s my dream in life to build schools in the township to make sure that the kids have options and they can be in an environment they’re familiar with. I think everybody deserves a choice because, for me, when I was young, it was difficult to move out of my environment and learn a language I’d never spoken before.
I think every kid deserves a fair opportunity and that we should all start understanding each other and getting out a little bit more. I think kids from the suburbs need to go to the township and see how life is there, so they can see there are kids the same age as them with different opportunities, so they can work as hard as they can to create better opportunities for the other kids in future.
I’m the person I am, because of the women that have played a huge role in my life. Part of me is my grandmother, my aunt and my mom. They’ve really been there for me and taught me resilience, discipline and how to stay positive during tough times. They’ve taught me how to love and they gave me care, time and support. I thank them for that. Without them, I don’t think I would be where I am today. I don’t know if I would’ve lasted in the township. My way of thanking them is to use my voice and my platform to make sure that women are treated equally and that they’re given opportunitites to take up important positions in the world.
What role can sport play for those facing adversity?
Siya Kolisi: Sport has taught me so much and kept me away from negative influences in the township. When I wasn’t at training, my friends came and found me and told me I had to be at training. I knew if I wasn’t there, I was letting somebody else down. Sport gives you the opportunity to dream big. When I was training, I was dreaming of what I could be one day. For me, being here now and doing what I’m doing, sends the message to kids in the township that their dreams are valid. They can relate to someone who looks just like them and who’s done all these things.
What I love about sport is that when you’re playing, there’s no colour, race, none of that stuff. If you’re good, you’re good, and that’s how life should be as well.
Was becoming World Champions in 2019 a catalyst for change in South Africa?
Siya Kolisi: Sport is not the answer. It’s definitely not the answer, but it does bring people together in a way that little else does – winning trophies during a difficult time in our country. The conversation around race is one that still needs to be opened up for discussion, supporting education, understanding but also compassion simply by listening. We need to break out of our comfort zones.
The best way to get to know me, for example, is to learn about where I come from and how that contributes to my drive. There needs to be a want to understand and sympathise with one another. And we need to start asking the harder questions in open, non-judgemental forums.
The beauty of our country is that every South African is different – instead of viewing that as a negative we should be celebrating it.
Have you witnessed anything in your career that demonstrates the power of sport?
Siya Kolisi: Yes, in 1995 I was young, but I saw what winning the world’s biggest rugby tournament did for South Africa. Nelson Mandela was president at the time, and he used the power of sport to unify the country – he put on the national jersey and walked out onto the field – it could’ve gone the opposite way, but the whole stadium was shouting his name. I remember talking to Francois Pienaar, who was the captain at the time, and him telling me he couldn’t forget the sound. The whole stadium was shouting, ‘Madiba, Madiba,’ and, ‘Nelson, Nelson.’ Then he realised Mr. Mandela was wearing the national jersey.
What that did to him, you know, he wasn’t expecting that, he wasn’t ready for that. Mr. Mandela knew how important rugby was to the Afrikaans people, or the White people of South Africa. He used that to try and bring everybody together. I think a lot of Black South Africans saw that. They were like, “Okay, if our leader can do that, surely we can start working our way into coming around to it.” You saw some of the pictures, people hugging from different races.
Deep inside our hearts, we were so happy of what our country could do. We’re a third world country playing as a first world country. That was then in 2007. And in 2019 we knew what we had to do. The country was facing terrible gender-based violence and acts of xenophobia. We knew that to win would mean so much to South Africa and that’s why we gave it all we had. We walked in there confident knowing that it would give a bit of hope, or something to smile about, to the people of South Africa who really needed it.
That’s what it means for me to play sport. If it can give you that little bit of hope inside – if that’s all it does, I’m happy with that. That’s enough for me, that makes me happy.
You’ve recently been named the most influential figure in rugby by Rugby World magazine. What does it mean to you to hold this prestigious honour?
Siya Kolisi: It’s a great honour and a privilege. I think it’s not only for me. I think it’s for the work that my wife has done, the encouragement that she’s always given me and for pushing me to be so much more than just a rugby player. Something that I’ve been doing since I started my professional rugby, I’ve been doing lots of work off the field. I know there are going to be so many people who come in and win trophies and people will break history over and over, but I believe the work you do off the field and how you use your voice, is the most important. You were given this platform to make a difference and use it for the best of everybody else. Without people, I wouldn’t be able to do what I love, and I think that’s what this shows. All the work I’ve been doing off the field, I think that’s why I got the award.
I don’t feel pressure because that award doesn’t only reflect on me, it reflects on everybody else that’s been around me throughout this time. I believe they will still be there, and I will continue doing what I’m doing, and I only got it because of being Siya. That’s what I’m going to continue doing, but it does encourage me to do so much more because it shows young kids that it’s not just about playing sport, winning, making money, looking after yourself. There are other people who need your help, who need your voice, who need your platform to make a difference.
That’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been vulnerable and asked people, “Please help me to help someone else.” It’s such a beautiful thing to see how people come together during times of crisis. Opposite brands all working together during this time. I think it’s so important that we play for so much more than ourselves. We play for so much more than just winning a trophy. Challenge yourself and play for someone else. Play for a meaningful cause. Play for something that will never be taken away. Something that will change kid’s narratives, that will change people’s lives. Something that will make a dent in the universe.
Get a movement going. Make sure that you do more than just play for yourself because then it puts that pressure on you to do so much more. When you get up in the morning and you don’t want to go, you know it’s not just about you, it’s about everybody else around you and that’s the kind of pressure I put on myself. When I play, I know that if I don’t do well, not a lot of people are going to want to work with me. If you play well, and you’re playing for others, then they will be there to encourage you. I’m grateful, but it’s only the beginning. I’m not going to stop. I’m only going to keep on moving forward.