You've probably seen the new Nike ad. You know, the one with side-by-side footage of athletes from a range of sports edited together in a way you have to watch to truly understand its brilliance. The one called "You Can't Stop Us" has more than 45 million views, just on Nike's official YouTube channel alone. It has another 40 million on Twitter.
"We're never alone, and that is our strength," the ad begins, with footage from professional athletes like Tiger Woods, LeBron James, and Megan Rapinoe (who narrates the spot) intercut with footage of everyday ordinary athletes, like 7-year-old Reid Hackney playing tennis in the basement with his older brother Drew. It's both a masterpiece of storytelling and a feat of technological achievement.
Nike's ad agency, Wieden + Kennedy, went through 4,000 hours of footage to meticulously piece together a split-screen take on the unifying power of sports. That alone is impressive. In fact, it is quite incredible and makes my head hurt thinking about the precision editing that went into making it.
But there's an even bigger reason that every brand should take notice. Sure, it's an ad from Nike, so you expect it to be about sports, and--on its surface--that's what it's about.
Except, in many ways, the message goes much further. "We know things won't always go our way," Rapinoe says over shots of empty stadiums being sanitized from a virus that has killed over 700,000 people and continues to affect millions.
To say that "things won't always go our way" seems like an understatement right now. It's a feeling we can all relate to.
And yet, in reality, sports are a unifying thing. We root with our neighbors for our team. We gather with our friends to watch them play. We cheer at their victories, and we mourn their defeat, together.
Right now, most of us would very much like to be doing any of those things. We'd love to get back to normal, together.
"But whatever it is," Rapinoe says, "we'll find a way."
For many people, it's difficult to believe that's true, though it's a message I think we could all use right now. It's also a powerful lesson for every brand. To the extent that you have the ability to be a positive influence in the lives of your customers, your team, or your community, as Nike says, just do it.
To the extent you can use your platform to lift people up and help people connect, you have an opportunity to do more than simply share a marketing message. You have the opportunity to remind people that eventually people will fill stadiums and cheer for their teams and celebrate. More important, we'll do those things together.