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Beyond Just Do It: Is Nike Inspiring Or Exploiting With Its Latest Campaign?
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Beyond Just Do It: Is Nike Inspiring Or Exploiting With Its Latest Campaign?

Nike released a new ad campaign during the latest Olympics which featured a less than athletic young man, trudging along on a solitary road, searching, according to the voice over, for his greatness. The words and the starkness of the scene are meant to be inspiring to everyone, however there are some that are less than thrilled. The ad, claim some critics is good as a beginning message, but underlines some of the problem with obesity in the US in that it oversimplifies what it takes to get on the path to lasting, weight loss. You cannot just strap on a pair of Nike shoes and hit the road all of a sudden one morning and run your way to fitness. It is not that easy.

And what about the lad in the ad? He is twelve year old, Nathan Sorrell from Columbus, Ohio. At just over five foot tall, the middle schooler weighs two hundred pounds, classifying him as obese. He saw the casting call for the Nike commercial which asked for unathletic types and thought it might be a good way to be inspired himself. But, as much as it is a noble thought and a valiant effort on his part, no one mentions the grittier parts, the behind the scene part of the ad campaign.

Jezebel writer, Lindy West wrote a column about the campaign and its inherent issues. In it, she mentions that young Mr. Sorrell had to vomit during his first few feet of that inspirational run. And while it was commendable that he kept on going despite his own discomfort, it highlights the issue perfectly. Going from sedentary to active is difficult, even under the best circumstances. To do so with cameras and crew watching your every move, for an ad that was going to air internationally is even more daunting. West and others felt that the boy was exploited by Nike- using the very fact that he was so opposite the athletic norm to sell shoes to the common person seems to be more marketing than nurturing.

To his credit, Sorrell has taken the whole hoopla in stride. He and his mother are planning to continue with fitness plans, they told the local media. Even if the Nike corporations intentions were not entirely honorable, does it really matter? They are in business to sell shoes and other items, and they we all know that. If the message of this ad inspired even ten people to look for their "own greatness" than it should be counted as a win, as well.


Street Talk

I can see the benefits, but like you said, just putting on the shoes and hitting the road can be dangerous. Interesting article Amie!

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

I loved the ad. I thought it was inspiring. I don't understand the backlash. We ALL have to start SOMEWHERE. Whether it's exercising, whether it's eating a salad, whether it's working on positive self-talk. We have to start somewhere. Of course it's not easy to start an exercise program. But, it's not easy living with heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity. I don't know what rock Lindy West lives under, but her take on this story is DEAD wrong! Thank you, Amie for an excellent article.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

I thought it was kind of sleazy for Lindy (who is usually a really spot on writer) to take this one on like she did. The kd puked, big deal. They are NEVER going to show that on an ad, a fitness infomercial and why would they. Most people know it is hard to make changes. I think that Nathan is charming- I caught a few minutes of an interview. He knows that it is hard work, but he is finding his greatness.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
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