"It’s a broad, silly premise that doesn’t mind poking fun at the inspirational jargon that often surrounds fitness culture."
7 / 10
Few brands have advertising ambitions as grandly cinematic as Nike.
But besides creating their own blockbusters, the brand also has its own storied history on the silver screen, from Marty McFly’s future boots to Bill Murray’s absurd slippers from Lost In Translation.
For its latest campaign, Nike revisits one of its most celebrated film outings – 1994’s Forrest Gump.
Though the Robert Zemeckis film has any number of beloved moments, Tom Hanks running sequence offered an iconic starring turn to the brand’s unmistakable swoosh.
With "The man who kept running", Nike replaces Hanks’ lovable everyman with none other than comedian Kevin Hart. Only a few months after he teamed up with David Beckham for an epic H&M campaign, it seems Hart is carving out a niche for himself as an advertising scene-stealer.
Released alongside its new running-focused smartwatch, the spot finds Hart filming a YouTube-ready unboxing of his new gadget. As he boasts in the grainy footage, "Running just became a lot easier".
With the opening shot in this found-footage style, a title screen then announces Hart vanished the next day, turning up months later 700 miles from his home.
By the time the ad catches up with Hart, he’s gone full Gump (at least in terms of facial hair).
It’s a broad, silly premise that doesn’t mind poking fun at the inspirational jargon that often surrounds fitness culture.
As well as looking to Nike’s past, "The man who kept running" also has shades of modern Instagram-ready gym memes, such as when Hart earnestly intones, "I’ve been living out here for months, but my spirit has been out here forever".
Between lounging in geysers and performing yoga on cliff edges, the spot explains how "a little voice" inspired Hart to keep running. Of course, that little voice is actually his Nike smartwatch with its daily demand of "are we running today?".
Getting a beloved comedian like Hart to puncture the seriousness of running gurus is a smart move, and the campaign takes full advantage of his range. In a series of short accompanying skits, we see Hart try to fist bump Mo Farah through his watch, discuss New Year’s Resolutions with a vulture, compete against his friends and, ultimately, eat a rock.
The main gag revolves around Hart’s slow descent into madness (and his bizarrely spiritual approach to running), but the campaign does also take time to show off some of the watch’s nifty features, like an app which tells you the optimal time to run.
A homage to a 20-year-old Tom Hanks film isn’t an obvious choice for a Nike campaign, but "The man who kept running" has enough laughs to justify its silliness.
With the New Year prompting renewed gym subscriptions across the land, Hart’s brand of pseudo-philosophy may just be what it takes to get you back on the treadmill.