Usually, you expect to see an elite athlete, or at least ordinary adults who push through difficult workouts in ads for athletic brands (looking at you, Nike’s #BetterForIt campaign). But nothing sells better than puppies and babies, and Nike has harnessed the power of the later in a recent commercial that’s especially timely given the 2016 Summer Olympic games in Rio. Nike’s extreme generational shift represents a totally different way of looking at how champions are made, which went to the depth of the story – and the infancy of famous athletes.
The name of Nike’s first Olympic ad is titled Unlimited Future, and features actor Bobby Cannavale alongside the supposed baby versions of future famous athletes, including “baby” Lebron James, Serena Williams, Neymar Jr., and more without visible name plates on their cribs.
“Listen up babies! Life’s not fair. You get no say in the world you’re born into. You don’t decide your name. You don’t decide where you come from. You don’t decide if you have a place to call home, or if your whole family has to leave the country. (Yeah, it’s messed up.) You don’t decide how the world judges a person like you. You don’t decide how your story begins. But you do get to decide how it ends.”
It’s certainly not the usual candor an adult has with a child. But these are no ordinary babies – they’re babies that will become famous athletes known for feats of immense strength. It makes sense that the “dialog” should be a little different than the typical baby/adult interaction.
“Life’s not fair” says Bobby, and any sane adult would agree. Especially those struggling with body issues – another target of Nike’s commercial attempts. Even if we can’t be Olympic athletes, that doesn’t mean we can’t strive to be, and become better for our efforts.
Bobby talks about the element of control and how we can’t expect a lot of it as it relates to the circumstances of our birth – our homes, our family, our location, and even our names. Then he goes on to say that what we do have control over is where you take your story from there, and where it ends. What’s not to love about that?
We know not to expect that things will be given to us, or to think that success comes without sacrifice. What’s interesting about Bobby’s baby pep talk is that he’s not trying to plant a seed – he wants immediate action.
After he finishes talking, a baby future athlete rises to his feet, all smiles, seeming to understand what the message is, and reacts to it. Cannavale points at him with an approving “Yes!” This baby is meant for great things – assuming he truly understands what’s being said.
Message and Approach
Nike ads are typically full of athletes sweating while performing extreme feats of sport and strength. Their Unlimited Future ad features an unexpected element of cute. Again, babies and puppies are a goldmine for advertisers.
But going past the basic integration of babies into their ad, there’s also the element of wisdom from someone who’s been there, passed on to the younger generation. Cannavale didn’t talk down to the babies in a goo-goo voice; he treated them with all the seriousness of an adult. At the end of the day, reality is harsh and the babies deserved to ‘know” what they will eventually be coming up against.
Nike’s Unlimited Future ad shares a message that was inspirational and real. Instead of focusing completely on the negative aspects of growing up and finding yourself, it preaches the approach of taking life by the horns and making it your own.
What did you think of Nike’s Unlimited Futures ad? Did you like the use of babies to convey a powerful message? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, or continue the conversation.