World’s best ads ever #17: Nike’s ‘Dream Crazy’ shows solidarity for a global cause
We asked our readers to vote for their favorite commercials of all time. Top creatives from the World Creative Rankings and The Drum’s Judges’ Club then ranked the ads. Now, we bring you the definitive 100 best TV and video ads of all time.
In 2016, 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick sparked nationwide controversy by taking a knee during the national anthem to protest race-based police brutality. In that moment, he risked it all: money, fame, reputation. Even then-President Donald Trump accused the NFL of “total disrespect” over their decision. But Kaepernick’s decision made him the perfect face for Nike’s ‘Dream Crazy’ campaign two years later.
‘Dream Crazy’ breathed new life to the athletic brand’s ’Just Do It’ tagline, which had just turned 30 years old. In giving Kaepernick a voice, Nike positioned ‘Dream Crazy’ as not just a PR move, but an expression of solidarity for a larger cause.
In the two-minute, five-second video, Kaepernick speaks of the importance of following one’s craziest dreams, which he uses to narrate different journeys of famous athletes like Serena Williams, LeBron James and others.
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“Don’t ask if your dreams are crazy,” Kaepernick says. “Ask if they’re crazy enough.”
Also in the limelight are 10-year-old wrestler Isaiah Bird, who was born without legs, and Zeina Nassar, who has faced discrimination for being a Muslim woman in boxing. Diverse as they are, each person featured managed to overcome systemic obstacles and limitations through the love of their respective sports.
Within 24 hours of airing, the memorable, affecting advert brought in “over $43m worth of media exposure” for the brand, according to a Breal.TV report.
Of course, the campaign was not well received by everyone. The brand faced a backlash as critics set fire to their Nike products and used the hashtags #JustBurnIt and #BoyCottNike to express their disapproval of the brand’s support of Kaepernick.
But Nike remained steadfast. One year later, the brand debuted a billboard that featured Kaepernick’s face with the accompanying quote: “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” The billboard earned the Outdoor Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions.
‘Dream Crazy’ was a success because it sparked a reaction. As Nike’s chief executive officer Phil Knight famously said: “It doesn’t matter how many people hate your brand as long as enough people love it.”