On Thursday, 16 June, the new PR campaign “FIVB Heroes” has been launched at Foro Italico. Top athletes, including a total of 29 Beach Volleyball players from six nations are on hand to try to help further promote the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB). “Our mission is to make volleyball the brand even better known and even stronger,” says FIVB President Jizhong Wei. Last year, 1.6 billion people watched games in the Beach Volleyball SWATCH World Tour. Mr Wei believes this figure could soon top two billion.
The PR campaign is part of a comprehensive brand relaunch that aims to use professionally produced billboards, posters and TV clips to bring the sport’s top athletes into the spotlight. The messages are kept short and snappy: “It’s not how big you are, it’s how big you play,” say Americans Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser. “Raise your expectations,” adds Maria Clara Salgado Rufino. The photo and film shoots took place in Montreux, Gstaad, Rome and Tokyo. Special high-speed HD lenses were used in order to give the best possible representation of the dynamic of the sport. The 30-second trailers will now be available to watch at tournaments and on television. The internet is also being used to drum up business: at www.FIVBheroes.com (free download) and on Facebook.
Emerging young talents such as Italian Matteo Ingrosso and the Salgado sisters from Brazil have been accepted into the illustrious circle of “FIVB Heroes”. The vast majority of this “hall of fame” is made up of the sport’s experienced top stars. They are the protagonists of the new campaign aimed at encouraging further growth in both Volleyball and Beach Volleyball, both of which are Olympic disciplines. The sport can currently count 35 million people in 220 countries as its active participants: a considerable number, but not one which meets the higher demands of the International Volleyball Federation, for whom the goal is to increase awareness of their sport, while simultaneously making it more attractive and more professional. The selection procedure is as rigorous as you would expect – only those with eye-catching charisma who act as role models for future generations are considered for membership of this exclusive club. Other factors brought into consideration are the competition statistics from recent years, tournament wins and ranking points. Only those who score highly enough in all of these categories earn the title of “FIVB Hero”.
Indoor Volleyball players are also part of the campaign. Thirteen women and fifteen men from a total of sixteen countries will be introduced to the public in their new roles at the beginning of July at the World League final tournament in the Polish city of Gdansk as well as at the World Grand Prix Final in Macau (China/24 – 28 August).
But in Rome, the spotlight remains firmly on the stars of Beach Volleyball, and none more so than double Olympic Champion Kerri Walsh (USA) and Emanuel Rego (BRA), himself an Olympic gold medallist and double World Champion. These two players, who are rightly viewed as the best of the best, are convincing personalities not only on the sand but also off-court. FIVB Executive Vice President Dr. Ary Graça: “We couldn’t wish for two better ambassadors for the sport.” Both embody the ease with which (world-class) athletes play their game, while keeping their feet firmly on the ground.
“I can still clearly remember my first season on the World Tour,” says Kerri Walsh. “I made too many mistakes, and defeats were the order of the day. I was completely despondent.” Her breakthrough came in her second year – as the uncertainty disappeared, the first victories soon followed. In Rome, Walsh will already be going for her fourth world title, and next year in in London for her third Olympic gold. “I am sure that I still have what it takes to win! I still believe the greatest and most successful day of my career is yet to come,” she says, in something of a warning shot to the competition.
Brazilian Emanuel Rego is cut from the same cloth. The 38-year-old has no fewer than nine World Tour titles to go with his Olympic gold and two World Championships medals. “The competition is actually getting harder and harder each year. But it’s the competition that makes it interesting – that spurs me on.”
Two giants statues of Walsh and Rego, made from polystyrene and plastic, and each measuring five metres high and weighing 330 kg, were on display in front of the Colosseum to mark the launch, in full few of the floods of summer tourists, and easily visible to over 200 media representatives covering the Beach Volleyball World Championships in Rome. “We couldn’t have asked for a better venue to launch the campaign than the Colosseum, a place full of symbolism and history,” emphasizes FIVB Executive Vice President André Meyer. Now the implementation will start: “We want to be positioning Volleyball and Beach Volleyball as highly athletic and highly professional disciplines, played around the globe and backed by a strong brand.”
In a little over a year, the giant statues of Walsh and Rego will make their next major appearance in London. They will once again be on display to millions ahead of the Summer Olympic Games. This is the moment at which the FIVB wants its “Heroes” campaign to reach its climax.