How Under Armour’s Michael Phelps Ad Inspired an Underdog Athlete’s Remarkable Journey

UA follows Johnny Agar's story

Headshot of Tim Nudd

Under Armour’s Michael Phelps spot by Droga5, which was Adweek’s pick as the best ad of 2016, has inspired countless people since it broke 13 months ago—perhaps no one more than Johnny Agar.

Agar, who was born with cerebral palsy, made headlines last summer when he and his father Jeff hatched a remarkable plan to attempt the World Ironman Championship in Kona, Hawaii, together. Jeff would push and pull Johnny during the entire triathlon until the last mile, when Johnny would walk alone with his walker, which had been a lifelong dream.

They were unable to finish the race in October, but Johnny has kept training. This weekend, he will compete in the Ironman 70.3 in Florida. And he has a brand-new fan rooting him on—Michael Phelps himself, whose Under Armour “Rule Yourself” commercial has long been an inspiration for Agar.

The ad made such an impression, in fact, that Agar’s mother created an almost shot-for-shot remake of it, starring her son, which is pretty amazing to watch. Check it out here:

The remake caught the attention of Phelps, who has tweeted several messages of encouragement to Agar this week.

Under Armour has also been impressed. “Embodying the true definition of being an athlete, Johnny’s story has inspired others as he continues to push himself to new heights,” a rep for the brand told AdFreak. “At Under Armour, we were equally inspired and wanted to share his incredible story and encourage others to rally around him going into the race this weekend.”

Johnny and Jeff’s bib numbers are 12 and 13. You can track them by their last name (AGAR) at this link. And read more about Jeff’s journey at his website.

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@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.
Publish date: April 7, 2017 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT