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Nike’s Find Your Greatness ad campaign is pretty good

July 26th, 2012 by | Tags: ,

I was talking to someone on Twitter the other day about whether or not it was unfair that black superheroes tended to shoulder the burden of addressing racial issues in comics & movies, like the stereotypical angry black man or the uncountable comics where a black hero points out to his white mentor how grimy life actually is when you’re colored.

I agreed that it was unfair, but that we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. White characters will never shoulder that burden because white is treated as the default. They get to have regular adventures because they are treated like regular people. Black people are special. We’ve got baggage.

So the choice is either deafening silence, which is in and of itself an implicit suggestion that things are a-okay, or one type of character being expected to deal with one type of story before they can move on to regular stories. My point, I think, was that it was unfair, but necessary, because you can’t expect white characters to shoulder that burden and someone has to.

I really like this Nike campaign. “Find Your Greatness.” It’s another hit for Nike after a long line of them, and I love that it focuses on regular people instead of superstars. All the spots are pretty good, though I think the one with the diver is my favorite/the cutest.

But I think it’s notable that in a campaign that includes a wide variety of people, from black kids to Chinese martial artists to a kid who plays baseball with just one arm, the only spot to be explicitly educational, in a cultural sense, is the one that features Muslim women wearing headscarves. (The conceit of the campaign is that it’s documenting athletes in not-England Londons, but I’m not sure where in this case.)

The voiceover: If we think greatness is supposed to look a certain way, act a certain way, and play a certain way… we certainly need to rethink some things.

It’s not a complaint, exactly, more of a plain observation. I think it’s interesting that this is the one that has the “Be more accepting” message. The other short spots are of the motivational variety. “If greatness doesn’t come knocking on your door, maybe you should go knocking on its door.” “Greatness isn’t born. It’s made.” “Greatness is a scary thing. Until it isn’t.” “Sometimes, greatness is about overcoming insurmountable adversity. Sometimes it’s just fun.” That kind of thing.

But this one, the message is more pointed. Americans hate Arab peoples and distrust Islam. The role of women in Islam has been boiled down to “oppressed, forced to wear oppressive clothes.” The role of men has been boiled down to “sexists, murderous, terrorists.” That is the narrative right now. Don’t believe me? It was just last year, 2011, that Representative Peter King put American Muslims on trial for the actions of a few.

The narrative needs to be corrected. Which means that people need to be educated. Which means that these messages of empathy and acceptance… need to be said. It needs to be said, it desperately needs to be said to correct the poison we’ve been tainted with, but it is only ever said by, or by way of, the people who are victims of false and hurtful narratives.

That’s the rock and a hard place. It needs to be done, but it’s unfair at the same time. Why should I have to reprogram your idiotic beliefs when I had nothing to do with them being invented? But if I don’t… then the poison continues. And if that poison doesn’t directly affect your life, you’re probably not going to be particularly active about getting rid of it. It’s like being trapped in someone else’s box.

“Find Your Greatness” a great campaign, and I love the message behind it, even the “Stop being so mean to Muslims and Arabs you incredible jerks” one. This one’s my favorite spot, though:


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10 comments to “Nike’s Find Your Greatness ad campaign is pretty good”

  1. I love the diving one as well, maybe because I feel that way almost every day (but then again, who doesn’t?).

    Only recently have I started to pay attention to sports-company advertisements (blame it on the excessive soccer watching), but, I gotta agree there – I do find them becoming better and better and they sort of ping at my heart (even when they’re a little heavy handed on occasion).

    I like them a lot.

    I hadn’t seen this Nike one, so, thanks for pointing it out!


  2. I don’t have cable tv anymore, so these are brand new to me.
    I think most television and commercials are dumb and should be ignored, but these Nike commercials are nice. Thanks for pointing them out.


  3. You’re right, the diving one is the best. Really made me smile watching it

    As far as the Muslim comments go, I think more people just want to see more of a vocalized/national movement denoucing radical/extremist views and leaders with the Muslim community because as you said that responsible is theirs. The view I think isn’t that they’re not people, so showing them playing soccer and doing normal things isn’t going to help, but have a more pointed condemnation I guess of the radical thinking that is an influence in a signifcant portion of the faith around the world. But I mean its a Nike commerical, soooo…not really the platform either though


  4. @Dylan: I think you missed the point of what I was saying w/r/t responsibility, and I’ll be all for what you suggest when there is a vocalized/national movement for the same from Christians, since Christianity is another religion that people have abused and taken advantage of to terrorize the world.


  5. @david brothers: well that doesn’t make sense cause there was. Christians from all over, namely Catholics for this example, came out supporting victims claims and naming the priests/clergy members responsible, they formed support groups and hotlines in order to make a stance. Some of the Knights of Columbus got involved in this and made statements about it. Many more vocally left the Church over it.

    If you’re alluding to historical events, i.e Crusades, of Christian violence, what do you think Pope John Paul II was doing traveling the world, in particular Muslim lands. Trying to set things right. He got shot doing it.

    But thats not the topic of what was being discussed so its irrelvant. But doesn’t your comment of “scratch my back and I’ll stratch yours” go against the entire article you just wrote? More about doing the right thing and taking a stand even though its tough. Right? There is an EXTREMELY violent membership of Islam, that is a fact. To the point where I don’t think I need to list examples. It would be nice, maybe reassuring?, to see more Muslims make it public their condemnation of it. Importantly I guess, tis that I think it’s your responsible to make others view your affiliated group in a positive light.


  6. @Dylan: Well, there is an EXTREMELY violent membership of Christianity, one that has terrorized the black populace of the United States, often aided and abetted by state governments. Maybe the church should tackle that. It would be real reassuring if the church could convince me that I wasn’t going to be randomly lynched.

    My point is that you misunderstood what I’m saying. Is it my responsibility to correct someone else because they’re so moronic as to think that Islam, as a religion, is a danger to them? No, it is not, because I had nothing to do with their bigoted, stupid beliefs. That’s on them. And it is unfair that, unless I say something, that belief will never change. That is my point.

    Plenty of Muslims have spoken out against radical Islam. There are what, a billion Muslims worldwide? And how many causing problems for everyone else?

    It is a personal choice to decide to use your being as a teaching tool, rather than as simply a life. For me personally, I’ve been trying to make my peace with that and not get depressed at the state of events. Others reject the idea, as well they should and as they are entitled to do, because they are not responsible for the thoughts of others.

    I’m black. I shouldn’t have to explain to a racist why she shouldn’t be scared of black people because it isn’t my fault she’s an idiot.

    That’s my point.


  7. @david brothers: But then why make that point? Other than to say that unfair things are unfair things. It has a defeatist ring to it.

    I don’t know anything of what your referring to of the church terrorizing the black populace of the US, KKK is the only thing I can think of but come on who hasn’t addressed them, the fact there not even relevant makes the case. There are blacks that go to my church and I’ve seen others at Catholic masses. But you’re an educated guy so I’m gonna guess there are reasons to why you would say that. And its not that every single Muslim is causing a ruckus, I know that you know thats not what I’m saying. But to brush off what others do in the name of that faith is bullshit, just like how its bullshit how some Catholic members blow off the church scandal. Address it and fix it and it starts from within, and it helps to not start by pointing the finger at your accusers. Priests are going to jail on evidence provided by fellow church members.

    It’s your prerogative if you want to change the beliefs of others, namely bigoted, around you but I think it shows that you give a shit. Dude if you don’t like how you are represented in society and if you have any self respect than you gotta stand up and be counted to either defend or to take a hard look at yourself. I like to believe its one of the reasons you started this site aside from talking about comics. I’m gonna assume that you and I would disagree on quite a lot but everyday I check out this site because it challenges my viewpoints and it either strengthens them or makes me correct them. Either way the interaction with this site and your ideas is BETTERING me.

    But if you don’t want to carry a chip on your shoulder, you gotta address why those people view your assoicated group negatively. You brought up that just being black doesn’t mean that you have to explain to a racist as to why they’re wrong. Nor should you if you are limiting it to an indivdual experiance, but then don’t complain about how their views affect you as a member of the black community without doing something about it. That Philadelphia mayor is a good example of what I’m saying. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/youve-damaged-your-own-race-philly-mayor-blasts-teens-flash-mobs/ and yes I understand this goes both ways and I’m white and there are things that definately need to be changed with the white community/mindset but as I said thats why I view this site and read your articles.

    Sorry this is so long. Really


  8. You should really read what you just wrote to David dude… Because you just justified the hatred of bigots without even knowing it.


  9. @Dylan: Last week, the congregation of a Baptist church in Mississippi refused to let a black couple get married in their church. Somebody definitely needs to take a hard look at themselves, but it’s people like those Baptists in Mississippi rather than David that need to do that.


  10. @Kyle: well that wasn’t my intention. i didn’t want to commit to a whole conversation about it other than to just throw the idea out there that besides obvious bigoted/racist people, there’s usually a reason as as to why a group (any group ever applies for this example) would have negative aspects associated with it and instead of getting defensive and pointing the finger back at your accusers maybe theres a chance to grow from it. its just an idea, nothing more. always be better and all that

    @Prodigal: didn’t say he does, i thought we were just providing examples on what our points were. but you kinda just said my point. my whole thing is that yeah thats bad, no reason for that in today’s society, so other Baptist churchs should say something condemning it because people will use that against the Baptist faith. it tough using race as an example of what i’m saying thats why i didn’t cite it in my first argument because nobody chose their race. but i mean you choose your faith and if you want to assoicated with that i kinda think its your responsiblity to maintain a positive reflection on that group and speak out when others are providing bad ones. like idk maybe its just me but i dont think thats crazy