New concussion safety ad prompted by teen's death to air during NBA finals
A screenshot from the commercial set to air during the NBA Finals. (ONgov/Youtube)
When Raptors fans watch Game 5 of the NBA finals Monday night, they’ll also see a provocative commercial on concussion safety, produced by Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government.
The commercial – which airs on television for the first time tonight -- follows a young soccer player who pushes through the pain of multiple concussions and nose bleeds, brought on by accidental head-butts and falls, until finally collapsing onto the grass during a game.
The message “don’t risk everything” then flashes on the screen before the commercial reminds players to stop and sit after suffering a hit to the head.
“The goal of our awareness campaign is to have everyone know the signs and symptoms of a concussion,” says Michael Tibollo, Ontario’s minister of sport.
But staff in Premier Doug Ford’s office says getting the commercial in front of a massive Raptors audience was a case of “total luck.”
The government made a large television advertising purchase months ago, including for the NBA finals, with no way of knowing that the Raptors would be vying for the first championship in franchise history.
“It would have aired regardless, but obviously we are thrilled so many more people will see it,” said one official speaking on background.
TSN, which aired Game 2, said the home game attracted an average audience of 4.3 million viewers across multiple platforms – making it the second-most-watched game behind the Super Bowl.
With the Raptors one win away from a championship, viewership is expected to spike as more people tune-in country-wide and crowds gather at multiple Jurassic Parks across the GTA.
The government won’t reveal, however, how much it paid to air the spot during the finals but confirms it didn’t have to pay a premium because they were purchased in advance.
The commercials were produced as part of Ontario’s concussion safety awareness law that was passed in 2018 with all party support.
Named after Rowan Stringer -- a 17-year-old rugby player who died in 2013 from second impact syndrome after multiple concussions – Rowan’s Law requires athletes, parents and coaches to review concussion awareness resources on a yearly basis starting July 1.
Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod, a hockey coach who championed the bill as an opposition MPP, feels an important part of the awareness campaign is reaching parents who often encourage their children to keep playing.
“You still have parents paying $800 to put their child through minor hockey… I’ve had experiences where I’ve had to sit out a child but their parents wanted them to continue to play.” MacLeod says.
MacLeod says it comes down to a cultural shift and a realization that head trauma could end with life-altering consequences, including death.
“People don’t see it. They see a cast on a leg, they see a wrap on a wrist, but they do not see what’s going on inside someone’s head.”
Rowan’s Law will also create protocols for removal from a game, if a player is injured, and safe return to the game.
Rowan Stringer’s father, Gordon Stringer, says while the ad was difficult to watch he feels the message needs to be heard.