If you’ve been watching the Olympics, by now you’ve probably seen one of the Greatness ads from Nike. They are brilliant, as you would expect from W&K, but one ad in particular has me thinking about what “greatness” is in terms of copywriting.
The ad features Nathan, an overweight kid from Ohio in a single shot jog down a country road. The voice (performed brilliantly by Tom Hardy; Bane!) reads simply:
Greatness. It’s just something you made up. Somehow we’ve come to believe that greatness is a gift reserved for a chosen few. For prodigies. For superstars. And the rest of us can only stand by watching.
You can forget that.
Greatness is not some rare DNA strand. It’s not some precious thing. Greatness is no more unique to us than breathing. We’re all capable of it.
All of us.
While everything sounds better when spoken with an English accent, the language (and the economy of language) here are poetic.
But what makes this great advertising is the way it voices an idea that most people believe already. You may not have thought about it, or considered the idea in the way the ad presents it. But greatness is not standing on the medal platform, or seeing your name in next to the world record. Greatness is the daily grind, the will to do what must be done to reach a goal.
The art direction emphasizes both the brilliance of the language and the power of the idea. Shot in one take, it’s the essence of minimal — and a far cry from typical, especially for Nike.
Most of us can relate to Nathan. We can relate to the suffering, both physical and mental, he endures as he tries to change his circumstances. What he’s attempting is hard; soul-crusing hard. And it’s only done in the loneliness within ourselves.
The brilliance of this ad is its ability to show us what we already believe in a way that is both new and beautiful.
Side note: Nike is not one of the “official sponsors” of the Olympics. But with their creative, their media strategy and their athlete partnerships, they are certainly one of the most visible brands of these games.