Nike’s “Great” Fat Kid Commercial Is Not Great

Just Do It.

It is the best sports tagline ever, maybe even the best tagline ever, period.

Why change it?

Here’s what (probably not) happened:

Nike marketing honcho, who is a different marketing honcho than the one who launched Just Do It, and therefore wants to Make Their Mark, says: “It is a bit obnoxious-sounding though, isn’t it? Probably put many people off exercise, and therefore, off buying our athletic shoes, apparel, and equipment.

“Can I see something else, ad guys?”


If you haven’t seen Nike’s new “Everything Is Beautiful And Aren’t We All Great Every Single One Of Us” TV spots during the Olympics, watch them now. (the launch commercial is below.)

Here’s the transcript of the Nathan Sorrell (fat kid) spot, voiced by the great hottie Tom Hardy:

It’s just something we 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, not some precious thing. Greatness is no more unique to us than breathing.
We’re all capable of it. All of us.”

OK. But, Greatness is a gift. Not just in athletics, but in academics, cheating, lying, video gaming, farting, whatever.

For the record, I’ve been a runner since I was about Nathan’s age. I am not, nor have I ever been, nor will I ever be, “great” at it. I’ve also play hockey since I was a kid. It consumed my life for several years. I practiced and practiced and practiced obsessively. I got pretty damn good at it—I could put a puck or ball exactly where I wanted without even thinking about it. But I was never “great” at it. Too slow. Too small.

But then, you say, what defines “greatness?” And there, we have found the bullshit of these ads. Nike is just playing a sly little semantics game here. Very sly.

Nike purposely went looking for a fat kid in London, Ohio for this spot. Nathan responded. Read an interview with him in his hometown paper here.

He puked in a ditch during the shoot. Are you inspired? Well remember: Nike is making money off of that commercialized puke. Millions. And if Nathan keeps running and loses a lot weight, Nike says it will come back to London and shoot another spot. And make millions more. Isn’t that inspiring of Nike?

As Lindy West at Jezebel wrote:

This ad is not true. It’s not realistic, and you know it’s not realistic because it’s not real. That kid didn’t just get up and run. Just getting up and running is not the solution to fat people’s “problems,” because all fat people cannot just get up and run. There’s a physical learning curve that’s incredibly limiting. But you couldn’t have a commercial in which that kid starts with mild, low-impact exercise, increasing his activity slowly but surely, plateauing, crying, complaining, and eventually—hopefully—succeeding. That’s way more than you could show in a commercial. That wouldn’t work. What works is “fat = lazy.”

Exactly right. The ad is a lie. Let’s hope obese people who should be walking slowly, at most—not running, uphill—don’t start piling up in emergency rooms and morgues.

If we didn’t know the back-story of the spot, it wouldn’t be as bad. But this is 2012, and lots of people who are watching the spot know the back-story.

Many commercials from the Just Do It days are much better than this Everybody Is Great hooey.

You know what? Let’s give everybody who tries super hard in school A+’s.

Ad agency: Wieden & Kennedy.

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