Before Michael Phelps collected five golds and a silver in Rio, for a total of 28 career Olympic medals, he decided to do something he’d never done before: commit himself 100 percent to his swimming training for, he told Bob Costas, the first time in his life.
His grueling journey from retirement back to the top of the sport was captured in a powerful 90-second Under Armour ad called “Rule Yourself.” The spot also earned him another honor: star of the best ad of the year, according to Adweek.
Adweek ranked “Rule Yourself” first in their list of the 10 best ads of 2016. They praised the ad for “using darkness to paradoxically shed new light on one of the planet’s biggest stars—and the physical and psychological cost of dedicating one’s life to swimming at the highest level.”
Set to The Kills’ “The Last Goodbye,” the ad made Phelps and his now-wife, Nicole Johnson, tear up when they viewed the finished product for the first time.
The creative director of Droga5, the ad agency that produced the ad, told Adweek, “When you hear [Phelps] talk about life, what it was like to be in a pool since a super-young age—the hard work, the loneliness—you sympathize with this man. It became easy to root for him, to make something that reflected everything he had gone through.”
Phelps agreed the spot was true to life.
“It showed exactly how I prepare,” he told Adweek. “The hard work pays off if you do it, and if you do it well. As long as you’re literally busting your butt every single day, you’ll see the goal at the end of the road.”
The ad concludes with the tag line, “It’s what you do in the dark that puts you in the light.