Creative Director’s Choice: TMW Unlimited’s Phil Rhodes on why Nike hits the mark

Nike's Nothing Beats a Londoner

Creative Director’s Choice gives creative directors a chance to highlight the work they think is the best out in the ad world — the ads and campaigns they believe are making a difference.

Phil Rhodes, creative director at TMW Unlimited, states why Nike’s ‘Nothing Beats a Londoner’ and ‘Dream Crazy’ are both highly effective in reaching their respective targets.

When I first moved down to London in the late Victorian era, with a bagful of dreams and a chip on my shoulder as wide as the river Tees, there was an ad on the tube that I hated. Hated.

It featured a pint of London Pride with the headline “Pints cost less up north. Well, they would, wouldn’t they?”

Now that I’m older, wiser and totally assimilated into the prosecco-quaffing, avocado-smashing capital class, I can appreciate that this is an excellent ad – one I still remember 20 years later. And I was reminded of it when thinking about two Nike spots that made waves this year.

One, right out of Portland, (‘Dream Crazy’) starred Colin Kaepernick (the erstwhile San Francisco quarterback whose simple act of protest caused Trump to spit his dummy out and famously reactionary NFL teams to shut him out of his sport) with the genuinely moving line “Stand for something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

There was so much to love about this. The fact that Nike had carried on sponsoring Kaepernick during his three year exile from football. That redneck internet warriors burned their Nikes while pundits predicted financial meltdown. And that Nike’s sales actually jumped 31% in the period straight after.

Then – less Portland, more Peckham – there was Nike’s ‘Nothing Beats a Londoner’ here in the UK.

Where the US ad is earnest, this was brazen. Where the US ad was sincere, this was brilliantly self-aware. And where US-Nike feels like it’s essentially a drawn-out vehicle for five (admittedly powerful) seconds of Kaepernick, this is packed with cameos and increasingly ridiculous braggadocio (told you I was assimilated) that poke fun at the whole hubris of sporting achievement.

Both ads (like lots of great work) are products of their place and time. And both, in their own way, hold a point of view and demand that you do the same: whether that’s having the right attitude, or just having attitude full stop.

But I guess it comes down to this: from alienating northerners to winding up #MAGA-cap wearing right-wingers, standing for something is always more memorable.

Phil Rhodes is creative director at TMW Unlimited in London.

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