New Balance taps Jaden Smith, Olympian Sydney McLaughlin to preach impatience to Gen Z
Ahead of the Tokyo Olympic games and a summer of a much-anticipated sporting revival, New Balance has enlisted a crew of millennial and gen Z stars to inspire audiences to seize every opportunity to chase their passions – preferably in their swaggy sneakers.
“Patience is a virtue,” goes the timeless adage. In its newest global campaign, ‘We got now’, New Balance turns this refrain on its head.
The campaign challenges gen Zers to take control of their own destiny and pursue their dreams now. “Impatience is a virtue,” says hip hop prodigy and activist Jaden Smith in the opening frame of the campaign’s hero film. “When you know what you want, waiting isn’t an option.” He is joined by an all-star team including two-time NBA champion Kawhi Leonard, tennis star Coco Gauff, Olympic sprinter Sydney McLaughlin, Liverpool winger Sadio Mané and pro skateboarders Margielyn Didal and Tiago Lemos.
Each is engaged in the activities they love. But it’s not about athletic and artistic ambitions alone. While 21 year-old Sydney McLaughlin gets in the zone for a series of rapid-fire hurdles and Coco Gauff homes in on a serve with laser focus, Smith is pictured loading a truck with water shipments – a nod to his philanthropy work and mission to expand access to clean water globally through his nonprofit organization Just Water.
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The campaign highlights “what drives Team New Balance athletes and fearlessly independent fans of the brand around the world to claim the ‘now’ and pursue their passions and dreams,” says Jeff McAdams, vice-president of marketing for New Balance. “‘We got now’ is a call to action to come together in meaningful ways, impacting change globally and locally. The campaign is meant to encourage the idea of impatience, inspiring consumers across the world to be proactive in going after what they want.”
This campaign, which was created by VMLY&R New York, represents the largest quarterly media investment in the history of the company, three to four times greater than typical investment levels. McAdams calls it the brand’s most well-synchronized campaign in its history.
New Balance has worked with VMLY&R for more than five years and trusted its team to bring the ‘We got now’ concept to life. Campaign production entailed shoots around the world, with scenes shot in the US, the UK and South Africa, which McAdams says, “speaks to the current sense of urgency felt throughout the world.”
“We hope that young people see themselves in this work and keep impatiently pursuing their dreams their own way,” says Rai Halim, creative director at VMLY&R.
Bringing balance to the world
The new effort speaks to the larger story of New Balance’s efforts in recent years to invest in various environmental initiatives and social programs. Not only did New Balance nimbly pivot its operations last year to manufacture over a million masks to meet an influx of demand at the onset of the pandemic, but just last month the sneaker giant announced a slew of new sustainability commitments. The brand aims to use only 100% renewable electricity in its operations by 2025. It will invest in improved material sustainability as well: by the same deadline, New Balance plans to use 100% environmentally-preferred leather and 50% recycled polyester in its apparel production.
Plus, “unlike its competitors,” New Balance said in a statement, “[we have] sought collaborators who not only demonstrate the potential for excellence in their craft, but who desire to further culture and cause.” The brand points to its decision to enlist voices like Kawhi Leonard, Sadio Mané and Francisco Lindor – all of whom have been notably outspoken on social issues – in various campaigns.
“We believe this is a representation of the faces and voices of this generation who energize culture and create action themselves, without waiting for permission. They can compel others to create art, to advocate for their beliefs, protect human rights and fight for good, in ways we could never do alone,” says McAdams.
‘We got now’ will roll out in top markets across the globe beginning today. Assets include a 60-second video, a 30-second video and several 15-second and six-second vignettes, as well as still photography. The campaign will involve placements in high-profile sporting events – including spots during the Tokyo Olympic games – and will be further activated across broadcast TV, social and other channels.
“Through ‘We got now,’ we hope to engage our target audience globally, empowering and inspiring them to live their own ‘now’ in unique ways,” says McAdams. “We see a new generation shaping the conversation, taking risks and bold new paths forward in sport, culture and the world, and this campaign reinforces that New Balance is with them on their journeys.
“Like our fans, our ambassadors and our athletes, we embrace change and fearless independence. By sharing the stories of individuals who refuse to wait for permission, we hope to encourage our audience to seize the moment and transform the world.”