Nike’s work shows a real commitment to getting to know the names and faces behind sporting triumphs.
As it does with almost every major sporting event, Nike has as much time, money and energy invested in the Rio Olympics as a small nation state.
Over the past 15 years, the brand has established a reputation for producing bombastic pieces of blockbuster advertising, which both share widely and gain critical acclaim, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s "Write the future" arguably being the high point.
At this year’s Games, rather than producing one ad, the sports giant has instead released a number of different spots.
United under the "Unlimited…" campaign banner, Nike’s Olympics ads run the gamut in terms of style, length and content. There’s athlete profiles, music videos, comedic sketches and, of course, the standard inspirational sporting vibe.
Essentially, the brand is saying "There’s something here for everyone" and inviting viewers to make the choice for themselves.
One of the strongest contenders is "Unlimited together", a black-and-white ode to the spirit of teamwork. This is due in no small part to the presence of a new track by Chance The Rapper, the musician behind one of the most highly-acclaimed albums of 2016.
Nike has certainly learned from the success of the "trackvert" trend, with Chance’s plaintive melodies highlighting videos of the US basketball teams projected onto the buildings of his native Chicago.
"Unlimited together" is certainly the most artistically ambitious of these spots, a strong but tender strain of patriotism running through both Chance’s lyrics and director Hiro Murai’s visuals.
Even more headline-worthy is "Unlimited courage", Nike’s profile of Chris Mosier, the first transgender athlete to compete on a US national team. It’s not a long ad at all, clocking in at 40 seconds, but it says a lot about Nike’s intentions as a brand at this Olympics, promoting social causes and awareness as well as sportsmanship.
Chris Mosier’s spot aligns with the profiles the brand has produced of various athletes, ranging from Rory McIlroy, who discusses his affection for Northern Ireland, to Alex Morgan’s reflections on her philosophy of football.
While these profiles have not shared as widely as Nike’s broad appeal spots, they show a real commitment to getting to know the names and faces behind our sporting triumphs.
Finally, the series gets personal with the joke-heavy "Unlimited you". Narrated by an incredibly deadpan voice, the spot shows a series of aspiring athletes trying and failing to improve at their chosen sport.
However, things take a turn when these everyday people decide to break the bonds of the inspirational sports ad model and go beyond what their benevolent narrator allows them to do.
Without spoiling too much, "Unlimited you" is a delightful fourth wall-smashing romp, with enough celebrity cameos and meta gags to fill a 21 Jump Street sequel. A particular highlight is when a gymnast literally kicks through Nike’s legendary Just Do It slogan.
Nike may not yet have produced the singular, Olympics-defining ad they’re typically known for, but the "Unlimited" series shows the brand is catering to all tastes and doing it with aplomb.