In our capitalist society, companies are consistently trying to out do each other when it comes to increasing revenue and the sales of their products to consumers. One major aspect of reaching out to the consumer and audience is through advertising. In the world of sports there are hundreds of companies that offer that the same products. Nike however, has become one of the world’s most recognized brands in the world and one of the top companies in their field. Nike manages to achieve this through massive advertising campaigns and endorsements of popular athletes and creating commercials that combine both. In 2016 Nike released one of their most ambitious commercials that not only increased their name recognition but also sent a motivating message of never settling for established limits.
The commercial begins with the narrator, voiced by actor Oscar Isaac, motivating various people with what they can accomplished. A baby that can one day become a state champion, a struggling runner that can one day run a marathon, an amateur golfer that will one day have the best swing, a training tennis player that will win the city open tournament. The narrator explains that, “all of these athletes are terrible now, but will all do big things one day.” The scene changes and the narrator states, “but this is where everyone reaches their athletic peak!” The viewer then sees a swimmer performing butterfly stokes leading in a race, a soccer player consistently scoring goals after being encouraged by the narrator, “One year ago, I said she would score every time she had the ball.” The scene shifts to a gymnast in the middle of his routine, the iconic “Just Do It” slogan appears and the narrator concluding, “When everyone pushes their limits, they reach their maximum potential and they live happily ever aft…”. The narrator is suddenly cut off from finishing his line by the gymnast claiming he is not done just yet. The gymnast performs one final trick, destroying the “Just Do It” logo in the process before dismounting.
The commercial continues, despite the narrator, claiming, “Hey! Story’s over! What are you doing!” as a young teen enters the ring challenging Game of Thrones actor and World’s Strongest Man winner Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, to a wrestling match. The scene changes to a woman running and jumping off a cliff, two children facing off against Olympic sprinters Allyson Felix and Su Bingtian. The next scene features NBA professional Zach Levine riding atop a speeding car, jumping off just before the crash. Waiting for Levine is another professional basketball player; Aaron Gordon, who passes the ball to Levine to make a fantastic dunk. Brazilian soccer player Neymar appears next demonstrating his skills before scoring a goal. Following Neymar is a cameo between MLB player Giancarlo Stanton and tennis player Serena Williams playing a strange hybrid of baseball—tennis. The next stunt is performed by professional skateboarder Nyjah Huston board sliding down an extremely long flight of stairs. Another scene occurs with a fencer preparing to battle DC Universe character Katana from the movie Suicide Squad portrayed by actress Karen Fukuhara. Various scenes previously mentioned begin flashing across the screen cumulating with distance runner Mo Farah crossing the finish line to a race but continuous his run almost causing a car accident.
Finally, the viewer sees the scenery of the Los Angeles cityscape and a boy atop a very large hill on the verge of riding down it with a skateboard. The narrator pleads the boy not to do it, “Kid, please, please don’t do this.” The boy simply responds, “I got this!” and rides down the hill as the words “Unlimited You” appears. The screen goes black with the iconic “Just Do It” slogan front and center. Ending the commercial is a very colorful Nike logo.
The purpose of Nike’s advertisement is obviously to increase the sales of their products and increase their name recognition. This is achieved through many ways. The Nike advertisement titled “Unlimited You” was part of Nike’s “Unlimited Series” campaign for the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; one of the largest sporting spectacles that occurs every four years. Such a momentous event is expected to draw a large viewing audience. Nike was clever enough to realize this and debuted the commercial during the opening ceremony of the Olympics thus being able to have the largest number of viewers to see the commercial. With so many people watching, the commercial was tailor-made to attract the attention of all these people that would be watching. The target audience is aimed at anyone willing to try out a more active lifestyle. The commercial itself feature people of all different backgrounds, races and ages, from “baby Daniel” to 86-year-old Ironman competitor and nun Madonna Buder and includes various sports and activities from running to swimming to skateboarding.
This indicates that Nike as a brand, is very inclusive. It is brand worn by people of all ages and ethnicities and is accommodating to a variety of lifestyles. It also indicates that it is a brand that is versatile in supplying the needs of the people performing different types of sports. The commercial also suggests that Nike is brand for everyone regardless of their skill level in sports. The commercial can be split into three segments that contain three different types of people. The in-training amateurs are featured in the first segment as indicated by the baby who has no knowledge of sports and is being taught how to play basketball by a parent, the tire-legged and sweaty Asian teen struggling with his running, a teen girl that failed at her golf swing, and a tennis player that got distracted and almost got hit by an incoming ball. Segment two represent those that have reached their “athletic peak” which are represented by the simmer and the teen soccer player. The last segment represents those that are constantly attempting to push their limits and can be seen in the gymnast, and various professional athletes.
The commercial appeals to ethos and pathos to further persuade the audience in believing Nike’s message. The commercial establishes ethos, by endorsing a star-studded cast of professional athletes. Athletes such as Serena Williams, one of the most successful and decorated tennis players in history, and Neymar Jr., player of prestigious soccer teams FC Barcelona, Paris Saint Germain, and the Brazilian National Team, are clad head to toe in Nike gear. Other professional athletes include Olympic-medalist runners Allyson Felix and Mo Farah, four -time MLB all-star, Miami Marlins and New York Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. The inclusion of professional athletes in the commercial establishes credibility because it depicts top athletes in Nike branded clothing and equipment which will cause the audience to associate the athlete with the brand and by have the athletes perform such as Neymar doing tricks with a ball would persuade people who identify with and like the player to purchase Nike gear because it would make the audience be and perform like them. Likewise, a person that likes Serena Williams or Allyson Felix would want to purchase Nike products because it would mean supporting their heroes.
The commercial appeals to emotion by being humorous and exciting to prevent the audience from being bored. The entire interaction between the narrator and the athletes creates moments where the fourth wall is broken often resulting in comedic relief. The scene where the young wrestler challenges “The Mountain” to a match included the following dialogue, “Woah! He’s going to kill you! And your mother is going to kill me!” The camera then pans to the mother who tells the narrator, “I’m going to kill you”, leaving the narrator to apologize, “so sorry ma’am”. Another scene that incorporated humor was the interaction of the narrator with the young athlete Tim who was attempting to exccel in every sport possible. “Woah, Tim, Tim! You can’t be the star of every sport!”, exclaims the narrator. Camera cuts to NBA player Kevin Durant who reassures Tim that, “Yes he can!” Scene then cuts back to Tim with trophies and medals and a background that states “Winner of Every Sport”.
Nike also incorporates action and excitement to keep the audience’s attention. At first the commercial seems like a typical Nike advertisement with their message of motivation. It is only until the later half of the commercial do the audience realize that the commercial has gone above and beyond its own “limits”. The stunts as the commercial progresses become more and more grandiose, even at times even dangerous. It also fair to say that when creating this commercial Nike did not intend on appealing to logos. The commercial did not feature any data, graphs or charts. It also did not use logic as many the events depicted in the commercial are absurd and and impossible but in exchange of throwing out logic, it compensates for creating a memorable commercial.
Overall the message that this commercial is trying to make is that to not be bounded by limits. the commercial itself was ironically limited within one minute, but the moment the gymnast broke the “Just Do It” slogan it symbolically broke the limits set upon by the commercial. It was up to narrator to restore order but it was to no avail. An article was posted Nike’s website regarding the the commercial they wrote,
“[The commercial] hails both the everyday athletes and the champion athletes who regularly push their limits — and who are poised to prove their unlimited potential this summer and beyond… By definition, ‘unlimited’ means: being or seeming to be without limits. Its synonyms include: boundless, indefinite, unfathomable, infinite… At Nike ‘unlimited’ also means endless possibility, when it comes to its athletes and when it comes to its designs. In turn, each pushes the other past perceived boundaries towards a sub-two-hour marathon or a first marathon, a world record or a personal best. Unlimited means never defining oneself by what came before. It means defying expectations, even one’s own. Unlimited declares that there is no ‘happily ever after’ and there’s no ‘too far.'” (Nike)
What Nike ultimately created was a memorable commercial that has a motivating message. It may have been two years since its release, but if the viewer ever face a challenge they must overcome. They can always remember the Nike commercial that gave them a pep talk to always be “Unlimited You”.
Unlimited You. Nike. 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jdAaE6heLA
Unlimited Youth. Nike. 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTqaiThb2fU&t=1s
What’s Next?. Nike. August 4, 2016. https://news.nike.com/news/unlimited-you
Neymar. 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ Team Preview: Brazil. soccer.com. June 14, 2017. https://www.soccer.com/guide/2018-fifa-world-cup-team-preview-brazil