A realtime journey: The Odyssey Project

To mark its 80th anniversary, Sperry have embarked upon a special journey. Launched in March this year, the Odyssey Project has sent eighty ambassadors across the world to document their unique journeys. The ambassadors are identified as intrepids: modern day explorers fuelled by a celebration of discovery and echoing the adventurous spirit of the brand itself.

I spoke to one of the intrepids, member of the US Olympic sailing team, Annie Haegar about her journey.

What were the highlights/challenges that you experienced during your Odyssey?
The whole experience was incredible. We kayaked out to the island and as soon as we arrived I noticed there was no one else there. We were all alone, the sound of the frogs was deafening. I felt so connected to the island, nature - I felt so at one with where my odyssey was taking me. Our guide work us up the next morning at 6:00am and told us we needed to leave right away because there was a small craft advisory and if we didn't start out immediately we might end up stranded on the island another night.

How was this experience different to others you've tackled in the sailing world or in your personal life?
I'm a competitive sailor with my sights set squarely on winning a medal for the US in 2016. But a little known fact is that I have a fear of going under the water. I had a sneaking suspicion when I pulled out the snorkel that my Odyssey would be on the water and I was excited to explore my relationship with the sea and water in a different light. I am so used to being above the water in a sailboat, when I learned I would be kayaking and exploring ruins of sunken ships I thought this would be a great opportunity to conquer my fear of going under the water.

Has this project impacted you as a person and your outlook on life?
I am a skipper and I am used to being in control. I'm a detail oriented, planned person, so having no idea of what laid ahead of us and having to pack really brought a new challenge. Coming from a control freak, letting go actually taught me a lot about myself. That if I can be able to be present and not have to worry about making sure everything is perfect, to let go and go with the flow, I can really enjoy the moment. I had such an amazing time.

What do you think the legacy of the Odyssey project will be for you personally and for the other participants?
I really hope it will inspire people really reach out of their comfort zone and experience true adventure.

For the advertising world, this has been a campaign like no other. Stephanie Broccoum, SVP Marketing at Sperry says that the campaign has "engaged real people and asked them to share their own tales of discovery. By sharing stories like Annie's, we hope to inspire others to go out, get out of their comfort zone, try new things, and come back with a great story to tell."

Michael Hart, Founder and Managing Creative Director at mono helped to spearhead this innovative campaign. I spoke to him about the innovation and creativity behind the project:

Why is Sperry such a good fit for such an innovative project?
Sperry is the perfect brand for this project for a number of reasons. From a business standpoint, the brand has momentum, but the leadership team sees great potential for so much more. They are investing in the brand and reinventing their entire approach to brand marketing, including making a commitment to developing a unique approach to story telling and content. The brand also has a very real and rich heritage. And because of that, there's true authenticity and connection to where the brand started. We don't have to manufacture or create this platform for content; it's been a part of the brand all along.

What have been the highlights during the production of the Odyssey Project?
So much of branded content out there today is staged and controlled. We wanted to take a different, really authentic approach to story telling, which makes this production really unique. When we identify a traveler, we create an experience just for that person, one that will take them to unfamiliar places to experience unexpected things. That means our travelers do not know where they are going or what they experience until the day before (sometimes the day of) departure. We ask each traveler to capture their "unboxing," the moment when they learn about where they are going and what they will experience. Watching their videos and seeing the true, genuine surprise and excitement has definitely been a highlight.

Also, we ask our travelers to document their odysseys themselves and share their story with us when they return. We don't direct them or ask them to capture anything specifically, and we don't edit the stories that they bring back. In essence, it's not Sperry telling the stories of 80 travelers. It's each individual sharing their story based on their own experience. For us, it's been amazing to see the stories come back in, each reflecting the individual traveler's talents and perspective.

What initial feedback have you received from audiences?
The Odyssey Project is still gaining momentum and the reactions have been nothing but positive. The stories are compelling and they are igniting a longing for adventure among our audience. We've had so many people raising their hand and wanting to participate in the project, which has truly been amazing.

What do you foresee the Project's legacy to be?
Our hope is that the Odyssey Project is remembered for real people sharing real stories of adventure and discovery that inspire us and remind us all how to live.