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How CALM utilized sport to start a mental health dialogue

The organization harnessed the influence of sports to create a tangible connection to mental health, resulting in a significant 74% surge in calls to its helpline for suicide prevention.

How CALM utilized sport to start a mental health dialogue

CALM acknowledges suicide as a crucial modern challenge. Despite being the leading cause of death among men under 45, engaging this demographic in discussions about mental well-being remains problematic.

In collaboration with AMV BBDO and Seven Stones agencies, the charity opted to employ the realm of sports—a domain where men often feel at ease expressing their feelings—to initiate a fresh dialogue.

Through its inaugural television campaign titled ‘The Invisible Opponent,’ the focus centered on heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury’s 2018 match against Deontay Wilder. In this match, the British boxer rallied back from a 12th round knockout. Given Fury’s openness about his personal mental health struggles, including his battles with suicide, CALM was confident that the message would strongly resonate.


The team edited the footage to remove Wilder from the video, showcasing Fury fighting an unseen opponent. The creative approach was extended to social media and digital posters, concluding with the message: ‘Sometimes the most challenging adversaries are the ones you can’t perceive.’

The campaign debuted on television during the popular show ITV2’s Love Island, which has a significant viewership within the target audience. The placement held particular significance as three previous Love Island contestants and presenter Caroline Flack had tragically taken their own lives.

Receiving the Marketing Week Award for Health and Life Sciences, the campaign secured a notably higher share of voice (32% compared to the usual average of 27%) for CALM. Notable celebrities and influencers, including Tyson Fury himself, engaged in the conversation.

Of utmost importance, the helpline experienced a remarkable 74% year-on-year surge in calls during the launch week, a crucial indicator of prevented suicides.


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