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Training for the Olympics can be physically demanding, but the toll it takes on mental health – especially during a pandemic – can also be harmful.
Financial services company Allianz, a global sponsor of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, has launched a program to help Olympic athletes with mental health problems. In cooperation with the non-profit organizations Love on 4 Paws and Little Angels, Allianz has launched the Allianz Support Dog Squad, which provides more than 50 dogs to provide emotional support to international skateboarders during training in Los Angeles.
Omnicom agencies BBDO, FleishmanHillard, GMR and OMD created a short documentary to help raise awareness of the program, which shows the positive effects animals can have on mental health, including reducing stress, anxiety and loneliness as well as increasing optimism and self-esteem.
The film shows Leticia Bufoni (Brazil) and Dashawn Jordan (USA) ‘s late trip to the Olympics, which affected their mental health and led them to seek assistance from the Allianz Support Dog Squad.
“Skateboarders are obviously used to competing very often, but this is the first time they have ever stepped into the global spotlight,” said Marcos Kotlhar, Executive Creative Director, Campaign US. “You are all Olympic athletes for the first time this year. And that’s a tough challenge. You go to an unknown place. You are not allowed to bring any of your friends, family, or support system with you. We thought if someone is under the pressure of loneliness, isolation, and dealing with potential mental health problems, it is probably these guys. “
The athletes are training for the biggest competition of their careers while fighting a pandemic, a situation that brings new challenges. The uncertain climate provided interesting and relevant fodder for the documentary.
“COVID and everything that happened in the last year challenged them as much as anyone else,” said Executive Creative Director Betsy Decker. “You have all this pressure on you trying to stay healthy and safe from COVID. You will then be separated from your friends and family. That was really the stage for this idea. “
It is rewarding to see the athletes learn more about their mental health and document how the dogs have changed them, Kotlhar added.
In addition to the documentary, Allianz has teamed up with Olympic skier Lindsay Vonn to exchange experiences and advice with other athletes. Allianz has also launched a mentoring and skills development program for the Olympic and Paralympic families to prepare for life after the competition.
“Mental health is never really talked about,” Decker said. “In this generation, it’s okay to talk about it, find a solution, and get better with it.”