Nike’s Campaign Overcoming Adversity in Sports

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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For Nike’s 30th anniversary of its iconic “Just Do It” slogan, they teamed up with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to be one of the faces of their new marketing campaign. Nike’s advertisement, “Dream Crazy”, aired on September 5th, 2018 and featured Lebron James, Serena Williams, and an abundance of other star athletes. Kaepernick narrates this ad while we are shown a montage of people overcoming adversity to become the best in their sport, or to become something larger than their sport. This ad not only uses ethos, kairos, and pathos to sell Nike products; it also uses ethos and typography to communicate their message about race and ability: no matter what your background or physical characteristics entail, no dream of yours is impossible.

The main purpose of this ad is to sell Nike activewear; this is accomplished by displaying Nike clothing on some of the athletes throughout the ad. Famous athlete Serena Williams is seen playing tennis wearing all Nike clothing, from headbands to sweatbands, which is an example of ethos. Followers of Serena Williams will see her wearing Nike and want to buy Nike’s products in order to be just like her. The invoked audience is any fan of politics or sports. By Nike choosing a controversial figure like Kaepernick to be one of the faces of their new campaign, they invoke this audience, because he’s a public activist known for kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality. The real audience of this ad is anyone who owns a television and watches sporting events. This ad first aired during an Atlanta Falcons game versus the Philadelphia Eagles and was then aired during the U.S. Open, Major League Baseball games, and college football games. Kairos is used in this ad because this was perfecting timing for Nike to come out with a powerful and impactful statement, since it was the 30th anniversary of their “Just Do It” slogan. Also, since Nike chose Kaepernick to be the voice of their ad, it was perfect to premier this commercial during an NFL game. The ad really struck a chord with the audience and was remembered by many. Pathos is used throughout the ad through the use of music and when we see the raw, real emotions in the athletes’ faces when they play their sports. Peroration is also used in this ad; the gradual buildup of emotion makes the audience feel motivated to follow their dreams and know that they can do anything they set their mind to, like the athletes in this ad.

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Nike is also selling the idea that no dream is impossible, regardless of your race or any disability you may have. The intended audience is anyone who believes they cannot accomplish something. Nike is conveying to you that you can do anything. Simply because you are receiving hate from the world does not mean you cannot succeed. People of color received hatred in the past and present, and are often viewed as inferior to white people, so it is powerful when athletes like James and Williams can overcome the obstacles in their life and become legendary athletes. Nike is using ethos in this situation by including Lebron James and Serena Williams in their ad because they are both popular, public figures to whom people look up and admire. The audience will be inspired by their idols to break stereotypes and “Just Do It” like them. Even refugees can play soccer for a national team and a girl from Compton can become one of the greatest athletes of all time. The world normally doubts people with physical disabilities and their ability to complete everyday tasks, let alone play sports. Nike is showing through this ad that kids without legs can still compete in wrestling meets and one-handed people can still play football at the highest level. This idea is wrapped up at the end of the ad when Kaepernick says, “Don’t ask if your dreams are crazy. Ask if they’re crazy enough.” He states that calling a dream crazy is not an insult, it’s a compliment. It makes people want to work that much harder to prove their adversaries wrong. There is also clever use of typography at the end of the ad where the phrase, “It’s only crazy until you do it.”, is changed to Nike’s slogan, “Just do it.” This use of visual rhetoric brings the message of accomplishing your crazy dreams full circle and ties in well with what Nike stands for.

This idea of overcoming hardship in life to pursue your goals is very powerful and is something that I profoundly support. I believe that if you have a dream you should go for it, no matter what the world says about you. No dream is too big regardless of your background or any physical limitations you may possess. Something that really impressed me in this ad was when Kaepernick said, “Don’t believe you have to be like anybody, to be somebody.” In this day and age, everyone is constantly comparing themselves to one another, trying to be better than the next person. Nike wants its audience to know that you should pave your own path in life and not compare yourself to others; you can be great just by being yourself.

For Nike’s 30th anniversary of their legendary slogan, “Just Do It”, they came out with a new ad campaign that is breaking stereotypes and shocking audiences. One of these ads being narrated by Colin Kaepernick, titled, “Dream Crazy”, features numerous people rising above the prejudices placed on them to succeed in their sports. Nike’s “Dream Crazy” ad uses ethos, kairos and pathos to sell their clothing, while using ethos and typography to communicate a strong message about overcoming adversity in sports, specifically with race and disability. I believe Nike used this message to sell their clothing because it fit well with their “Just Do It” slogan. Nike says that your dream is only crazy until you do it, so you should “Just Do It”. Although I support the larger message of this ad and believe it to be inspiring, I do not believe that it was effective in selling Nike clothing. This ad made me want to go out and try everything that I have never thought I could accomplish, rather than buy Nike’s clothing. However, I believe that this ad was a smart decision for Nike because it enhanced their brand image to be viewed as a company that empowers society as a whole.  

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Nike's Campaign Overcoming Adversity in Sports. (2021, Jun 26). Retrieved from