The last time the Spartan army took to the battlefields was more than 2,000 years ago. Over the millennia, their timeless heroism, fearlessness and willingness to fight against the odds have never ceased to inspire.
But what would a modern Spartan look like?
Introducing “Everyday Spartans”
The original “Everyday Spartans” series is a tough and thoughtful exploration of this question. The show centers on a group of eight ordinary people who are bound together and assigned Herculean tasks as they travel the globe and transform their lives through fortitude-testing physical challenges.
So who are these “Everyday Spartans?” True to the show’s title, they’re a regular bunch — four women and four men from around the world — each with their own unique life story and each willing to be put through a series of grueling tasks to better themselves as athletes and human beings.
The seven-episode series is produced by Rakuten in conjunction with Spartan, a Rakuten partner and the world’s largest obstacle race and endurance brand.
Over the course of the series, the group will test their mettle in a number of locations around the world, including Barcelona, Mount Fuji and a remote ranch in Vermont owned by Spartan founder and CEO Joe De Sena.
Step one: Japan
The eight’s first stop was Japan, where the goal set before them was to scale the iconic Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest mountain at 12,389 feet (3,776 meters).
However, like many of the millions of visitors who flock to Japan each year, one of the first stops on the “Spartans” itinerary was a historic shrine.
Of course, it was no ordinary trip to the shrine. Instead of sauntering about the picturesque Atago grounds in central Tokyo and posing for selfies, De Sena presented the “Everyday Spartans” with their first task: samurai training with a twist.
The group had to scale a flight of stairs known as the “stone steps to success” while carrying a 40lb (18kg) kettlebell weight.
The kettlebell is almost a totem for De Sena, a world-class adventure racer who founded Spartan in 2007. He literally carries the weight with him everywhere he goes, so it came as no surprise to the group that they would also need to work together to carry it to the summit of Mount Fuji.
Joe De Sena’s Spartan vision
In conjuring up the first Spartan races, De Sena was inspired by the warrior society of Sparta in Ancient Greece; his goal was to create a global community of modern day Spartans who would push and inspire each other through a rigorous obstacle course race.
In the space of nine years, over 8 million “Spartans” have hauled themselves across the finish line at Spartan races around the world, which range from three miles (five kilometers) to races longer than a marathon that also include upwards of 60 obstacles.
Today there are Spartan obstacle course races in more than 42 countries and the Spartan mission is to transform the lives of 100 million people throughout the world. Ultimately, De Sena wants obstacle course racing to feature in the Olympics, and, as he has previously stated, he has no intention of stopping until it is.
Community building through inspirational content
With Spartan’s ambitious plans for growth and desire to create a better future for people around the world, Rakuten was a perfect choice to become the company’s Global Innovation Partner and “Powered by” partner in September 2018.
The partnership is based on shared values of empowerment, optimism and community building. Rakuten expects the new series to have a particularly strong impact on the latter.
“The Spartan community is very engaged in content and experience-sharing. Promoting the Rakuten ‘One Team’ spirit through these inspirational stories really resonates well with that community, and I think that it will attract a lot of non-Spartans as well,” said Tobias Memmott, manager of Rakuten’s Digital Creative Strategy Group and the show’s producer.
“It’s our hope that this series helps to break down the perceived entry barrier to Spartan Race and shows that everyday, ordinary people can do extraordinary things.”
For Rakuten, the show also marks another major step in the company’s move into the original content space. The company has previously created a digital series documenting the U.S. leg of Shakira’s recent El Dorado World Tour and is in the process of creating more long-form sports and entertainment content that leverages Rakuten’s high-profile global partnerships. Matchday – Inside FC Barcelona, a new documentary series that follows the club through its 2018-2019 season — created by Barca Studios and produced in collaboration with Rakuten in association with Rakuten H Collective Studio, Kosmos Studios and Producciones del Barrio — will be released later this month as well.
Empowerment. Teamwork. Transcendence.
While it’s immediately evident that the “Everyday Spartans” are a competitive bunch — all of them have completed Spartan obstacle course races — what the show and De Sena emphasize is teamwork, a hallmark of the Spartan way.
According to Pete Cohen, a cast member from the UK, Spartan races made him think differently about the nature of competition.
“When I started doing Spartan races, I actually thought to myself — am I going to do this to push myself to the absolute limit and win for myself? Or am I going to do this in a different way?”
“So, now I’ll go around and look for opportunities to help people, which I think is what Spartan is all about,” shared Cohen. “It’s a shared experience and it’s a community thing as well. And that’s what the world needs, desperately.”
That’s something “Everyday Spartan” Kressa Peterson, a cancer survivor, reiterated. After spending the first day with the other Spartans in Japan, Peterson said: “We would already take a bullet for each other. It’s quite bizarre and quite beautiful.”
For some of the participants in “Everyday Spartans,” the training and the races are a lifeline in overcoming profound loss.
For Spaniard Francisco Martinez, who had to deal with the death of his young son due to a rare illness, Spartan “became a game-changer for me in life to conquer the pain and heal the scars, step by step.”
“You are walking through life and you will face obstacles. Depending on you and your attitude, you lift yourself up and face these obstacles,” explained Martinez. “That’s why a Spartan is the perfect metaphor for life — facing obstacles until you reach your goal — which is a happy life, and feeling good about yourself and the people around you.”
That is ultimately the philosophy behind Spartan Race.
As to whether the “Everyday Spartans” fulfilled their duty to haul De Sena’s 18kg weight to the top of Mount Fuji? Watch the first few episodes streaming on YouTube now to find out.
For more about Rakuten’s partnership with Spartan, visit here.