Luger Bruno Banani, the winter free Pacific Island nation of Tonga‘s first and only ever participant in the Winter Olympics has successfully competed in the luge event, coming in 32nd, ahead of a racer from Norway, a country where it snows quite a bit, and six others.
As luge is one of the world’s fastest and most dangerous winter sports, one doesn‘t associate it with the tropical archipelago in the South Pacific, Tonga. How Bruno came to be one of the top lugers in the world is truly an amazing story of athletic and marketing genius.
Bruno’s adventure comes out of the unique culture developed by Makai Inc, an independent and top 100 global promotions agency founded in 1995 by Robbie Thain, in his bedroom, and now based in the up and coming Silicon Beach neighborhood of El Segundo, California. Known for its experiential marketing campaigns for top companies as diverse as Intel, Kraft, Toyota, Mattel, and many more and its unique culture where ideas can bubble up from within, Thain is proud of this campaign as an example of Makai’s creativity and moxie.
Thain notes, “The Bruno Banani Olympics campaign is a perfect example of how our culture drives original thinking and resourcefulness. We embrace internal entrepreneurship and project ownership. We are proud that our ethos produces inspirational campaigns globally.“
In November 2008 Fuahea Semi, rugby player and IT student, attended a casting in Tonga. The country’s best athlete was sought to represent the country at the Olympic Winter Games.
Due to his humilty and athleticism German coach and former luge racer Isabel Barschinsky chose him and Bruno Banani, Tonga‘s first and only luge racer was born.
Bruno Banani GmbH has supported the luge racer from Tonga since 2009, “When Makai asked us to sponsor Tonga‘s first ever luge racer named Bruno Banani, we didn‘t hesitate a second. One thing was very important from the beginning: Bruno is a true athlete. He managed to make it to the Olympics within five years,“ says Wolfgang Jassner, founder and CEO of Bruno Banani GmbH.
There is no doubt Bruno Banani is a serious athlete. Luge Competitors lie supine on a sled and race down an icy ditch at speeds of 140 kilometres or almost 90 miles per hour and more.
Since Bruno came on the luge scene in 2009 the Bruno Banani brand has garnered countless impressions as he has competed on the world luge circuit and in Olympic qualifiers. The small controversy around the name was on brand and only added to the attention. In 2011, Bruno Banani also released a line of Coconut Powered underwear.
“My slogan is `from naught to sixty!`I love the speed in the luge sled. I forget everything around me, when I go down the track,“ Bruno Banani says.
But Bruno’s slogan not only applies to the sled, but also to his amazing career. All of his competitors have been training for years. But only months after Bruno actually saw and felt snow for the first time ever, he nearly qualified for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. In the last round the exceptionally talented athlete from Tonga crashed and missed qualification by only one point. His coach, Barschinsky, was surprised at Bruno Banani‘s amazing ability.
Due to Bruno‘s incredible talent Makai, Bruno Banani GmbH and the country of Tonga decided to support his career over the long term and in the last four years he has continued to aggressively train. He has received support by Norbert Loch, the trainer of the German national luge squad, and German luge champion and three time Olympic gold medalist Georg Hackl.
Bruno Banani’s Jassner adds, “We have invested in a highly motivated, very athletic young man who wanted to represent his country for the first time in winter sports. Bruno has the physical composition and the athletic talent. The rest was training. At the beginning of our sponsorship we could not be sure that Bruno Banani would make it to the Winter Olympics. But we were certain that he could achieve greatness.“
As one of the top lugers in the world, in December 2013 Bruno Banani qualified for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Clearly his natural athleticism combined with his training paid off.
Thain concludes, “The Bruno Banani Olympics campaign is emblematic of the Makai approach – empowering our global team to create impactful programs that are a win for everyone involved. Here at Sochi, Tonga achieved their Winter Olympic goal, Bruno Banani has a great campaign, and most importantly Bruno Banani, the athlete, lives his dream.“