How CALM used sport to spark a conversation about mental health

The charity harnessed the power of sport to help make mental health tangible, driving a 74% increase in calls to its suicide prevention helpline in the process.

CALM Invisible Opponent MW Awards
Source: CALM

CALM describes suicide as one of the most pressing challenges of the modern age. Yet, despite being the biggest killer of men under the age of 45, getting this audience to talk about their mental health remains a challenge.

Working with agencies AMV BBDO and Seven Stones, the charity decided to use sport, an area where men feel comfortable expressing their emotions, to start a new conversation.

The charity’s first TV campaign, ‘The Invisible Opponent’ centred on heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury’s 2018 bout with Deontay Wilder, during which the British fighter recovered from a 12th round knockout. Given Fury has shared his own mental health struggles, including attempts to take his own life, CALM believed the message would resonate.

The team removed Wilder from the film to show Fury fighting an invisible opponent. The creative, which also ran on social and digital posters, ended with the message: ‘Sometimes the toughest opponents are the ones you can’t see’.

The campaign made its TV debut during ITV2’s Love Island, a popular show among the target demographic. The placement was poignant given three previous Love Island contestants and presenter Caroline Flack have taken their own lives.

Winner of the Marketing Week Award for Health and Life Sciences, the campaign earnt CALM a significantly higher share of voice (32% versus a year average of 27%), while celebrities and influencers – including Fury himself – joined the conversation.

Crucially, calls to the helpline – the biggest indicator of prevented suicides – increased by 74% year-on-year during the week of launch.