Declan Rice features in a new campaign directed by Robert Wilkins out of PRETTYBIRD UK. 

For the latest Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) advert, AMV BBDO and Seven Stones have come together again to create work that challenges stereotypes and helps people open up about how they are feeling. Loneliness is a significant problem in the UK, 3 million people say they feel lonely some or most of the time, and CALM wants to encourage more people to seek support.

The campaign is the result of a new partnership between the agencies, who last year launched The Invisible Opponent campaign featuring heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury. The campaign helped to deliver awareness of the charity by 50%, from 21% to 33%, for CALM between April 2021 and April 2022. PRETTYBIRD came onboard to produce this new iteration of the concept, with Director Robert Wilkins bringing the creative vision to life.

Calm – The Invisible Opponent

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Entitled The Invisible Opponent 2 the film is the heart of a new campaign and shows West Ham and England footballer Declan Rice battling invisible opponents. The haunting struggle looks as though the player may be fighting themselves, as a full crowd looks on. Relief finally comes at the end as a hand extends to help him from the ground with CALM’s powerful message appearing on screen ‘You don’t have to be alone to feel alone’, followed by a rallying cry ‘Let’s tackle it together’. The film is a metaphor for the mental health struggles that people face and the sense of isolation that comes from tackling them alone.

This time around, Rice is the focus of the action, playing a game that feels stacked against him. Rice, who is set to star this winter with the Three Lions in his first World Cup, joined CALM as its newest ambassador earlier this month, and aims to raise awareness and challenge the stigma around mental health and suicide. Off the pitch, he’s set a goal to get more people talking and looking out for their friends and loved ones, at a time when more people than ever are turning to CALM’s helpline and web chat services for support.

Sky Sports launched the film in Soccer AM and the campaign includes TV, outdoor, social media and media partnerships. The context of sport allows CALM to challenge the stigmas around mental health, particularly amongst men. Men often hide their mental health struggles and are worried about appearing weak by speaking up. This prevents millions from getting the help they need and men account for 75% of suicides in the UK.

The project wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Entourage Sports & Entertainment, Trim Editing, ETC, The Hotspring, Factory Studios, and many others. A technically challenging campaign, high quality footage of England games was used, along with additional shot footage of Rice playing. Then the painstaking process of removing all the other players was taken on to achieve the lonely effect. Lighting and interaction edits in post production make the final effects convincing and unnerving, set to dramatic music and sound design.

Declan Rice commenting on the campaign says: “Everyone suffers at different times in their life and there’s so many people out there who feel like there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel - but all it takes is a conversation. It's about having that support network and having people you can speak to. Because no matter who you are or what you’re going through it should be easy to speak to the people you love. Just one conversation can make a positive difference”.

Robert Wilkins, Director, PRETTYBIRD, adds: “I am proud to be part of the conversation to help change perceptions around mental health and masculinity. That we’ve been able to get England hero Declan Rice onboard to speak up in this way will hopefully inspire a generation, particularly of men who are so prone to suicide. Declan shows us that it’s okay to be vulnerable and that the brave thing is to speak up and ask for help. He’s the modern hero.”

Simon Gunning, CEO, Campaign Against Living Miserably, explains: “In the UK 125 people die by suicide every week - with 75% of those deaths being male. That’s not ok, and it doesn’t have to be that way. Now, more than ever, we must continue to challenge the stigma that prevents people from seeking the help they need. Anyone can feel lonely, no matter your age, gender or background. But everyone experiences that feeling in different ways. That’s why we need to tackle it together. And show people, however you feel right now, you’re never alone. There’s always someone on your side, and CALM is always here.”

Matt Jennings, CMO, Campaign Against Living Miserably says: "Invisible Opponent is a powerful creative platform that enables us to challenge the stigma around mental health in a way that many can relate to without the cliches and tropes surrounding it. We hope this sends a timely message and goes someway to enabling people to speak up and seek the support they need."

Dan Russell (Managing Director at Seven Stones) and Joe Smith (Strategy Partner at AMV BBDO) commented: “We’re incredibly proud of this work and hope it will encourage more people to find the support they need, particularly at this challenging time of year. The campaign would not have been possible without the support and generosity of so many people who were committed to the idea and the cause, donating time, effort and footage.”