ZURICH, SWITZERLAND — 2022 Ironman World Champion Gustav Iden and Olympic Champion Kristian Blummenfelt, the best-known, most photographed, and fan-friendly tri-athletes in the world, are used to fighting. In On’s latest campaign, Iden and Blummenfelt are transformed into Norsemen of (Triathlon) legend and become the fearsome Viking warriors “Kristian the Unstoppable” and “Gustav the Great” in a short, Manga-style animation produced by Passion Pictures.
The project was led by Creative Director Simon Brotherson and Shanghai-born Yibi Hu (Future Power Station), who directed the film, which was produced by London’s Passion Pictures. The animation draws inspiration from 1990’s Batman and Robin cartoons.
The triathletes-turned-Vikings must find the flame burning within themselves to succeed in a fantasy realm that includes formidable opponents and obstacles. With Norse gods watching on, sea serpents and sirens try to lure Gustav and Kristian off the course, mysterious charioteers give chase, a living forest stands in their way, and a perilous run amid the clouds has the Tri-Kings pushing themselves to unknown limits in pursuit of victory.
“With Tri-Kings, we continue our tradition of distinction with a world-class animation and live-action storytelling cross-over,” On Sports Marketing Lead Gessica Giulini said. “We drew on all the epic drama of Norse mythology to create something that breaks free from the conventions of sports content, redefining the perception of triathlon through an authentic and fun perspective, hence captivating a much wider audience.”
“There was so much content out there about Kristian and Gustav, but most of it was scientific content – about their so-called Norwegian Method of training,” Creative Director Simon Brotherson explained. “So we said: ‘Let’s have some fun.’ Gustav and Kristian have been referred to as Vikings before – and they’re kind of fierce. So why not fully embrace that theme?”
Simon and renowned Animation Director Yibi Hu (Future Power Station) co-wrote the film and joined forces to bring their vision to life. The 2D animation process was combined with 3D motion capture technology to push the project’s technical and creative boundaries, resulting in a spectacular film. In the same innovative way, old Norse mythology and animation aesthetics were seamlessly merged with the topic of triathlon, resulting in a fresh take and artistic choices that appeal to young audiences.
“Simon and I had a long chat about how Gustav and Kristian race, their personalities, and their swimming, cycling, and running styles. We wanted to reflect a true triathlon, how athletes experience a race,” Yibi recalled. “During races, the audience has a completely different experience than the athletes. From the outside, it feels calm. But for the athletes, it can be pure chaos. And when you’re racing in truly spectacular surroundings, the mountains and trees around you seem to come alive – either helping you or trying to hold you back.”
In the end, Kristian and Gustav cross the finish line side-by-side… and are ready to go again, much like in real life. They have been training partners for years, share the same coach and hometown, and often go head-to-head in races. The idea was for the film to leave fans waiting to see what would happen at the ultimate showdown in Paris in 2024.
“I had high expectations before I saw the film,” Gustav Iden said on the project. “I’ve done a lot of different film projects in the past, but nothing comes close to this. Norse mythology has grown quite a lot in popularity over the last decade because of various Hollywood movies, but I was a fan long before that. I am proud of my Norwegian and Viking heritage. Still, I don’t feel like a warrior most of the time. I was happy to have Kristian by my side.”
Kristian could not agree more, saying, “It’s us against the world. The film summarizes quite well what it feels like in real life – with some exaggerations, of course. How we have to fight these obstacles on the way. The important thing is how you’re able to deal with those and move on. It feels special to be portrayed as a Viking warrior. To be out there in the wild, no matter the conditions. That strength and rawness of Vikings is well represented.”
Learn more about the film and its background here.
Client: On AG
Producer: Gessica Giulini, On
Executive Producer: Feliciano Robayna, On
Creative Director: Simon Brotherson, Brother&Son
Producer: Olivia Hirshberg
Production Company: Passion Pictures
Animation Director, Art Director, co-writer: Future Power Station
Producer: Louise Simpson
Executive Producer: Kitty Turley
Head of Production: Juliette Stern