Last summer, Nike came out with a new ad featuring a young man who was not your run-of-the-mill athlete, to put it lightly. To put it not so lightly, it was an ad featuring a fat kid running really slowly up a hill. Take a gander at the poor fellow in all his sweaty glory:
Needless to say I fell hard for this ad. All it took was that sultry narrator saying to me through the TV screen, “Greatness is no more unique to us than breathing. We’re all capable of it…all of us.” I died. I believed. I wanted to go for a run. I wanted to find that sweaty kid on the side of the road somewhere and run next to him and tell him how great he was doing. I sort of wanted some new running shoes.
I thought a little harder about what that ad really meant. It was put out around the same time as the summer Olympics, when television was peppered with every athlete that’s ever participated in the Olympics and their mothers, and frankly, I was feeling pretty out of shape and lazy watching all these insanely fit people on TV 24/7. Then this commercial came on and it wasn’t the only one of its kind, either. Nike released a similar ad shortly after with a similar message.
What Nike did was capitalize on more than the fact that it was likely to be an Average Joe viewer sitting around on the couch watching the Olympics, they capitalized on a new kind of movement in advertising that attempts to really appeal to the “everyday person.” We’re getting tired of staring at Victoria’s Secret angels and Calvin Klein models doing things we only wish we could do. Olympic athletes are fun to watch every now and again, but no matter how many times they tell us that Subway helps them stay lean while simultaneously satisfying their hunger, we can’t help but hate that when we mere mortals order a $5 foot long we know it’s going straight to the hips while they will remain toned, fit, and well, Olympic.
We want to relate to the people we see on TV. We want to be encouraged, not discouraged, by their success and see that if they can do it so can we. Think back to the Dove skin care billboards that caused such a stir back in 2009…the ones that featured “real women” who weren’t 16-year-olds with perfect skin and model good looks. Granted, there was plenty of controversy over airbrushing (as there always is and always will be in advertising) but the POINT is that something revolutionary was at work.
It’s time to give air time back to the common man. It’s time to make ad campaigns relateable and inspiring. This is more than just a commercial; it speaks to a greater social movement that requires reaching out to people on a more personal level. I think Nike is bringing back what Dove tried to start, and I also think that Nike is succeeding. Go ahead and tell me this stuff isn’t inspirational. If you do I’ll just ignore you because this stuff is great! I’m totally sold.