London Can Bolt

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How the city and a few creative minds got behind Usain Bolt

The 2012 Olympics are done and done. Many images were etched into our minds- not least of which was that Bolt Pose. The Archer. The To Di World. Call it what you want, but if it was memorable in Beijing, it took a turn for legendary in London.

We had a hunch this might happen. Which is why we got the city of London on board well in advance of that 100m victory lap. The "London Can Bolt" campaign was executed in typical PUMA fashion: a bunch of sport, a dash of art, and lots of character.

“I think it worked really well being street cast as the whole city got behind the Olympics in a huge way,” says campaign photographer Tom Oxley. “It became something you could relate to and it lent itself to that feel good factor around town as the Games were held… The way more and more posters sprung up as Usain Bolt won the first major race just added to the occasion.”

In collaboration with PUMA and London-based agency, Neighbour, Oxley shot the campaign from East London to Trafalgar Square to Embankment. With his keen eye for both London and photography, he created a set of images which artist Kate Gibb was eager to work with.

“There are certain photographic qualities that inherently lend themselves to silkscreen and many that don't,” explains Gibb. “Chatting creatively with Tom about light, for example, made a massive difference to the finished piece.”

Gibb transferred each of Oxley's photographs to silkscreen. By adding and playing around with color, the images began to develop. The final illustrations hung in their "galleries" for several weeks prior to the Games and throughout the events: wheat-pasted in Shoreditch, painted across a Carnaby Street façade, showcased in neon frames in the PUMA YARD.

"This campaign felt very personable involving local, everyday people. Bolt as an athlete is very personable, talking about his life, being the fastest man in the world, and involving his family and friends," says Gibb. "They're all part of it. Of him, the champion.

“The lo-fi approach suited his audience and him,” says Gibb. “Laid back, calm, and really bloody good.”