Touching Christmas tale of Ballymena bear a global hit
He's the lost teddy who has brought the spirit of Christmas to Ballymena and touched the hearts of people across the world.
The Ballymena bear has stormed the internet in a heart-warming festive tale.
His quest to be reunited with his owner, portrayed in an advert promoting Christmas in the Co Antrim town, has been viewed more than 15,000 times.
It tells the story of the lost bear searching for the child he was made for.
He calls at shops and restaurants across the town in a bid to find her, eventually tracking down the little girl just in time to see the Christmas tree lights switched on.
At nearly four minutes long the film has been viewed in 49 countries, including Australia, Iraq and Russia.
The film was made by Ballymena-based Grafters Design Studio, while the bear was made by Michele Lowry of local gift shop Penny & Rose from linen supplied by Baird McNutt, also based in the town.
Major retailers such as John Lewis and Sainsbury's have splashed out millions of pounds to create their festive ads - however, Ballymena's bear has touched the hearts of thousands worldwide despite a modest budget of £5,000.
The advert's creator, Stephen Reid (29), a creative consultant from the Ballymena area, said he wanted to engage the audience.
"I've been a big fan of the Christmas adverts from John Lewis and Sainsbury's and thought we could do something similar but on a smaller scale," he said.
"My plan was to create an engaging story that plays out against the backdrop of Ballymena's great businesses.
"We wanted something that would increase the town's footfall so we wanted something that would be shared online.
"I created an ad that tugs at the heartstrings and I think people identify best with simple characters.
"Teddy bears are something we have all had as children and when people connect with that it has a stronger emotional side to it."
Stephen, with the help of his sister Naomi, spent eight weeks planning and making the short film after he was approached by Ballymena BID (Business Improvement District) to create a Christmas advert to promote the town.
TV presenter Eamonn Holmes revealed his love for the bear on Twitter, saying: "I now draw your attention to #ballymenabear... so cute."
The advert shows off the best Ballymena has to offer after 12 months in which the town was hit by the devastating news of the closure of the Gallaher and Michelin factories, costing hundreds of jobs.
Ballymena BID project officer, Grace Carmichael, said the advert is part of their social media campaign.
"There has been a fantastic response to the video since its release on Friday," she said.
"Everyone can relate to it because every one has had a teddy bear and people can get into it more. I really think it will have a positive effect on the footfall in the town."
See the story of the Ballymena Bear at belfasttelegraph.co.uk