The Right Way to Build Brand Love by Hopping on Viral Trends

The Paralympics’ lighthearted TikToks contrast the industry’s conventional disability content 

The Paralympics has reached 3.2 million TikTok followers by pairing game clips with viral sounds. 

Richard Fox is not interested in contributing to the internet’s abundance of “inspiration porn.” As a former Paralympic athlete and a digital media coordinator at the Paralympics, Fox is playing into TikTok culture to drive a social movement forward.

“I wanted to showcase people with disabilities doing sport but in a different way,” Fox said, stressing that audiences often treat these athletes differently and view them as inspirational for merely existing. “Using viral sounds and viral trends is how we’re doing that.” 

While creating adaptations to popular sounds is the most effective way to reach virality on an audio-first platform, brands have faced controversy by seemingly trivializing serious topics for the sake of potential clout. As a Paralympic athlete himself, Fox wants to generate buzz without compromising inclusion.

While hopping on viral trends is the brand’s gateway to trending itself, the Paralympics’ strategy is also grounded in the audience education around the games that this virality allows it to conduct.

Shaina Zafar, co-founder and chief marketing officer at Gen Z-focused agency JUV Consulting, said it’s common for brands that are eager to keep up with younger generations to fall into cultural appropriation. While some marketers who “haven’t articulated their ‘why’” miss the mark when engaging with trends, Zafar stressed that a brand’s ability to engage with consumers in real time is an invitation for constructive feedback and more creative experimentation.

“Paralympics has such a unique position to talk about how do we think about disabled athletes,” she said. “Brands try to take such calculated evaluations by using data and metrics to define what their strategy when marketing is really about telling untold stories.” 

Watch this video to learn more about Fox’s approach for leading the Paralympics to TikTok notoriety and how brands can identify the right opportunities to hop on viral trends.

This story is part of Adweek’s Finding the Customer digital package, which spotlights marketers’ efforts to accurately measure and track evolving consumer behaviors and engagement.

JUV Media is a collection of JUV press features — from our staff to our campaigns.