BBDO Belgium

"The Breakaway: the first eCycling team for prisoners"

Client: Decathlon
Product: Sports Retail
Title: The Breakaway: the first eCycling team for prisoners
Media: digital / in game
Country: Belgium
Date Of Campaign: 31 march 2021

Background: Decathlon’s purpose is to make sport and its benefits accessible to all. Even when it seems impossible. Because has many benefits. Not only on a health level, but also on an emotional and mental level.During the lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, we all felt a bit like prisoners. In the spring of 2021, Decathlon wanted to make “freedom” its central theme. We wanted to demonstrate how sport can liberate people and fits in the company’s vision of making sport accessible.

Idea: In a maximum security prison in Oudenaarde, Belgium, we launched the first eCycling team for prisoners. Decathlon provided them with clothes and equipment (bikes, trainers, …) to cycle on Zwift, a virtual world where 3 million cyclists race and ride together. Enabling them to ride with people from the outside world for the first time. As anonymous athletes instead of being labeled a prisoner or outcast. The project is ongoing, permanently reconnecting them with society from behind bars. In a podcast, we documented how riding online with others changed their life. In an epic race streamed live on Facebook by Decathlon, they even competed with a team of judges, lawyers, prison guards and the Minister of Justice.

Results: The Breakaway project showed the real power of a virtual sport. It was discussed by all mainstream media in Belgium, and the international cycling press. In combination with the social reach by Decathlon, this reached over 15 million people and earned around 1.3 million in free media attention.In may, John McAvoy, ex-bankrobber and now an acclaimed pro triathlete, organized an official group ride on Zwift, creating a social event with hundreds of cyclists riding with the prisoners.After racing them live on Facebook on September 14, the Minister of Justice decided to expand the Breakaway project to all Belgian prisons. In collaboration with Decathlon, all prisons will be equipped with eCycling in the coming years.

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