The Story of Marshall “Major” Taylor

Sure, the campaign is selling Hennessy, but still a great story and one that’s under told.

By 1901, Major Taylor was considered the greatest athlete in the world and was the first African American world champion in any sport. Major Taylor was one of the most renowned track cyclists of his time—and arguably one of the most celebrated athletes in history.

His story is known to cyclists and in the Seattle area, the Major Taylor Project empowers youth from diverse communities through bicycling. In MTP after-school clubs, students establish healthy habits, build relationships, gain confidence and discover their ability to affect positive change. I’ve met the organizers and youth involved and it’s a great organization.

Hennessy is celebrating Taylor in its latest Wild Rabbit campaign, created in partnership with agency Droga5. The connection to the brand is “Personalities that exudes a drive, a determination and an ongoing quest to break down barriers.”

In his own words, Major Tayler said

I was a pioneer. And therefore, had to blaze my own trail.

The campaign, running now, includes a 90-second, 60-second and 30-second cut of the ad, as well as shorter 15-second spots. They are dark, edgy, and morph into a vortex where Taylor faces his toughest adversary.

Shot in Ukraine, an unnamed cyclists stars as Taylor and according to Adweek, “The cyclist raced flat-out for four days straight in these awe-inspiring settings. He was so inspired that he raced from dawn to dusk to make certain that he did justice to Taylor’s story.”

I watched all the spots, they’re inspiring and a good way to memorialize a legend in cycling. And, hopefully encourage you to get involved with advocacy like the Major Taylor Project and get youth involved in a sport we hold dear.

Besides these films, Hennessy is honoring Major Taylor with an ESPN documentary, a statue, and a cycling apparel line.

Watch the making of below.