To celebrate World Down Syndrome Day, adidas collaborated with creative agency FCB Canada and director Jason Van Bruggen to tell the story of adidas’ first sponsored athlete with Down Syndrome, Chris Nikic.

As Chris is a triathlete, marathon runner and the world’s first Ironman with Down Syndrome, the campaign reserved the runner BIB 321 for Chris to race with in the Boston Marathon this year – with extended plans to allow all neurodivergent athletes to wear BIB 321 in next year’s event too.

Why 321? 95% of people with Down syndrome have trisomy 21 — a full copy of chromosome 21, leading to three copies instead of two. This number is iconic to the Down syndrome community and the reason why we celebrate World Down Syndrome Day on 03/21.

Andrew MacPhee, executive creative director at FCB Canada explains: “Down syndrome, also known as trisomy 21, is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21, hence 3-21.” The number is widely used by the Down Syndrome community and marks World Down Syndrome Day annually on March 21. “The initial spark came from our desire to create visibility and representation for neurodivergent people in running,” says Andrew. “We wanted to create a beacon for others to see what’s possible. In a sea of thousands of runners, our runner needed to be easy to spot. That’s where the idea to reserve BIB 321, a number that resonates with the Down syndrome community, became the centre point for this campaign.”

FCB Canada has a history of working with the Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS) and brought its experience in this field to the campaign. Runner 321 is just one of the agency’s recent projects aiming to improve inclusion in fitness for the Down syndrome community. “Fitness is often discouraged by doctors for people with Down syndrome. MinDSets, our global research study is tracking the impact of fitness on cognition for people with Down syndrome so we can change that and make fitness a key part of prescribed therapy.”

The shared ambition between adidas, FCB Canada and Jason was the advancement of inclusion in sport – and already they have received “an overwhelming, positive response” from parents of neurodivergent children, who are seeing themselves represented for the first time. Andrew says, “A particularly poignant post from a mother of a two-year-old said that the video made her hopeful for her son and she would use it to show him what’s going to be possible for him. We’re also seeing people step up to support it. An Olympian has offered to train any Down syndrome person to be the next Runner 321. So we know that this initiative is already making an impact in showing people what inclusion in mainstream sports looks like.”



When people with Down syndrome don’t see themselves represented in sport, they aren’t able to see what’s possible for them. As a brand, adidas has a unique mission to break down barriers for marginalized communities and demonstrate to the world that ‘impossible is nothing’.

As part of their goal to partner with the best athletes in the world from diverse backgrounds, adidas had recently sponsored Chris Nikic—the first athlete with Down syndrome to complete the Ironman. This made Chris the first globally-sponsored athlete with Down syndrome. Chris is a shining example of what is possible and an inspiration for the next generation of neurodivergent athletes.

Our objective was to create a social movement to include neurodivergent athletes in the world’s most accessible sport: running. We targeted the six major marathons to help drive awareness and to enlist a minimum of 100 races to add a Runner 321 in 2023.


Sports fans idolize and identify with those who achieve the impossible. One of the most common symbols for inspiring the next generation of athletes is an iconic number. Michael Jordan’s 23, Lionel Messi’s 10, or Wayne Gretzky’s 99. Iconic numbers that represent perseverance, dedication, and the pinnacle of athletic success.

Iconic numbers have been revered as a symbol of the best athletes of all time. In reality, they’ve only represented athletes that fit within the confines of mainstream sport. We set out to create the first iconic number to represent an entire community of neurodivergent athletes who are exceeding what society thinks they can achieve.

Introducing Runner 321, the movement led by adidas that asks the world’s major marathons to reserve Bib 321 for a neurodivergent athlete who qualifies. The number 321 was specifically chosen because it represents Trisomy 21 for people with Down syndrome.



Our target was neurodivergent athletes, aspiring and current, who are often relegated to separate competitions. These separate events signal that neurodivergent athletes are incapable of participating in mainstream competitions, which is far from the truth. Our strategy was to partner with the right brand and the right athlete to create a social movement of inclusion.

As a global sportswear manufacturer, adidas was in a unique position to bring about historic change for neurodivergent athletes. adidas’ fundamental belief is that sport has the power to change lives, making them perfectly suited to remove barriers for people with Down syndrome.

Chris Nikic— the first athlete with Down syndrome to complete the Ironman— was the perfect person to lead a movement to inspire the next generation of neurodivergent athletes. Chris’ partnership with adidas made him the first globally sponsored athlete with Down syndrome. Chris shows what is possible for the neurodivergent community.


Launched on World Down Syndrome Day, March 21, 2022, our inspirational video showcased adidas sponsored athlete Chris Nikic. Our campaign landing page encouraged other races to get involved, and offered a Runner 321 toolkit with race instructions, social posts, and more.

We held activations at the NYC and Boston Marathons with a takeover of the New York adidas store on 5th Avenue, and cheering sections at mile 3.21 of the races. Once Chris completed the Boston Marathon, he handed his bib to the next Runner 321, Kayleigh Williamson, in preparation for the 2023 race.

All six of the world’s major marathons (Boston, New York, Tokyo, London, Berlin, and Chicago) have now reserved Bib 321 for a neurodivergent athlete, despite four of them being sponsored by Nike, New Balance, and Asics, our toughest competitors. Our movement has reached a global scale and we continue to add more races.


adidas’ Runner 321 campaign started a social movement that continues to grow. Our campaign hero is Chirs Nikic, a Down syndrome athlete who is also an Ironman, an ESPY winner, a Special Olympics Ambassador, a public speaker, a published author, an adidas-sponsored athlete, and an inspiration to the global neurodivergent community. All other athletes featured in our communications have Down syndrome, creating visibility and awareness of what athletes with Down syndrome can accomplish.

All six of the world’s largest marathons, including four that are sponsored by Nike, New Balance, and Asics, have reserved a spot for Runner 321 in their 2023 events

278 athletes, and counting, have signed up to be the next Runner 321

To date, 252 races have committed to adding a Runner 321

59 earned placements for 268M impressions including Forbes, The Boston Herald, Barstool Sports, Yahoo! and MSN Sports.





Brand: adidas. Advertising Agency: FCB, Toronto (Canada). Production: 456 STUDIOS Toronto. Post Production: Alter Ego Toronto ; School Editing Toronto. Music & Sound: Oso Audio Toronto ; Citizen Music Toronto. PR: Current PR Toronto.


Director, Brand Communication Sport Footwear and Apparel: Dustin Geddis. NAM Sports Marketing: Hygie Ordono. Sr. Manager, Brand Communications, Running Footwear: Josie Johnson. Running Footwear: Andrew Lemoncello. Asst. Manager, Digital Publishing: Emily Crueger. Manager Digital Content: Sally Rubey. Sr. Manager Digital Content: Rene Hirschbolz.


Chief Creative Officer: Nancy Crimi-Lamanna. EVP, Global Creative Partner: Danilo Boer. Executive Creative Director: Andrew MacPhee. Executive Creative Director: Cuanan Cronwright. Executive Creative Director: Leonardo Barbosa. Associate Creative Director: Sally Fung. Associate Creative Director: Sara Radovanovich. CSO: Shelley Brown. Sr. Strategist: Audrey Zink. VP, Managing Director: Tim Welsh. VP, Managing Director: Ricky Jacobs. Account Supervisor: Chris Flynn. VP, General Manager Content: Ian Buck. VP, Content Development: Yotam Dor. Director of Project Management: Emily Mihalek.

456 Studios

VP, Integrated Production: Stef Fabich. Director, Broadcast Production/Producer: Sarah Michener.

School Editing

Executive Producer: Sarah Brooks. Editor: Lynn Sheehy. Asst. Editor: Fiona Alvarez. Alter Ego Colourist: Andrew Ross. Colour Assistant: Ebi Agbeyegbe. On Line Artist: Sebastian Boros. On Line Assistant: Nupur Desai. Producer: Spencer Butt. Oso Audio Creative Director: Daenen Bramberger. Producer: Lauren Dobbie. Executive Producer: Hannah Graham. Sound Engineer: Dylan Groff.

Citizen Music

Junior Producer: Kai Rizzuto. Head of Production: Molly Young. Creative Director: Tomas Jacobi. Composer: Nico Barry.

Current PR

Sr. VP, Client Experience: Shannon McGovern. Account Director: Sara Koerner. CEO: Virginia Devlin.

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