Challenge Accepted
Out of home campaign to recruit lifeguards for NYC beaches and pools.
Filed under:
strategy, print, photography

︎ About This Project 

From 2019–2022, New York City grappled with a lifeguard shortage that cast a shadow of uncertainty over the safety of its iconic beaches and pools. The shortage was a national crisis, but was especially daunting in New York City because of the demanding lifeguard exam required for certification. In 2023, and I teamed up with NYC Parks to create a game-changing lifeguard recruitment campaign.


Our approach began with pinpointing the New Yorkers destined for lifeguard greatness. We conducted a survey and focus group with first-year lifeguards to get a sense of their experiences. A common idea we heard again and again was that lifeguards felt motivated by challenges. Many lifeguards described themselves as people who sought out challenges and adventures—especially athletic ones. As one first-year lifeguard eloquently put it:

"I would get bored if the job wasn’t so tough. Lifeguarding has shown me that I can do more than I thought I could do. As grueling as it is, I think its great.”

Armed with this insight, we tailored our campaign to resonate with athletes, fitness professionals, and those accustomed to tough training, like veterans and firefighters. Our messaging spoke directly to the daring New Yorkers who could ace the lifeguard exam.


Opting for a visually compelling photography-based campaign, we showcased real lifeguards in familiar New York City parks, with a focus on Rockaway Beach in Queens. We carefully planned a photoshoot that captured the physical prowess and athleticism demanded by lifeguarding. The campaign's narrative, meanwhile, accentuated the mental fortitude required for the role. Our overarching objective was clear—depict lifeguarding heroically and inspire individuals to envision themselves in this vital role.

This dynamic campaign debuted across the city—from bus shelters to digital kiosks, beachfront neighborhoods, and local schools—just in time for the lifeguard exams. In tandem with the out of home campaign, we crafted informative flyers to demystify the hiring process, and strategically distributed them at recruitment events.