Before Phelps, Ledecky, Manuel and the rest of the USA Olympic Swimming Team pulled off the seemingly impossible in Rio, Matt Farrell quietly attempted something arguably less likely.

Four years ago, Farrell, USA Swimming’s longtime chief marketing officer, tried convincing fierce industry competitors to collaborate on a media campaign so they could ride the Olympic wave and attract more competitive swimmers.

“I’m not going to say the first meeting was rosy,” he says. “But we said, ‘We can fight over market share all day long, but if the pie doesn’t grow, who are we serving?’”

To convince reluctant partners, Farrell pointed to other major sports leagues making significant investments to grow participation. This included the NFL, NBA and MLB, which is committing $30 million to youth baseball development. Meanwhile, golf and tennis are exploring ways to make their sports more kid-friendly: For golf, it’s experimenting with shorter holes; for tennis, it’s considering a larger, slower moving ball.

USA Swimming growth, meanwhile, had plateaued at approximately 340,000 since 2013. A big reason for the stall? Research showed that nearly 80 percent of parents don’t consider swimming as a competitive sport after their kids complete swim lessons.

No longer could aquatics operators attract new swimmers merely by opening their doors, they realized. Now, they must compete with other sports that are gunning for kids, and also offer easier, cheaper alternatives. “We said, ‘We need to get ahead of this as an industry and start to fight for participation going forward,’” Farrell recalls.

Ten partners agreed to work with Farrell and USA Swimming. The result was Swim Today, a four-year, $2 million campaign launched with the Olympics. Combining social and traditional media, the program was guided by a two-pronged goal: to demonstrate why swimming is the most fun sport, and provide an invitation to join.

Early indications show the campaign worked better than even Farrell had hoped. “We found a 118-percent increase in swim team searches over 2015,” following the Olympics, Farrell said. “We’re thrilled with that.”