WHAT: Two new spots in Nike’s Olympics-themed “Unlimited” campaign.
WHO: The “Courage” ad was created by Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, while the “Together” ad was Wieden + Kennedy, New York. They star transgender Olympian Chris Mosier and Chance the Rapper, respectively.
WHY WE CARE: It’s easy, during the Olympics, to be overwhelmed by inspiration overload–if it feels like everybody up there overcame hardship, pushed their body to the limit, and otherwise achieved greatness against impossible odds, it’s probably because what they’re trying to do actually is basically impossible. So the “Unlimited” campaign from Nike is kind of a breath of fresh air–it still tells those stories and makes us want to chant “U!S!A!” at our televisions, but it finds new ways to do it. In the first spot, “Unlimited Courage,” duathlete Chris Mosier–the first transgender athlete to compete as part of the U.S. Men’s Olympic team–responds to the questions that someone who just learned what “transgender” means might ask: “How did you know you were fast enough to compete with men?” “How did you know you were strong enough?” “How did you know they’d accept you?” to which he replies every time, “I didn’t.” (Mosier, of course, is a man, something that his ability to compete at the Olympics level makes very clear.) The ad, rather than being wracked with strings and a swelling score, tells Mosier’s story in a jaunty, lighthearted way, which is a nice way to call attention to his achievement without going overwrought in the presentation.
The second ad, “Unlimited Together,” is a little sappier, but because that sappiness comes in the form of an all-new spoken/sung/rapped minor-key piano ballad from Chance the Rapper, we’ll allow it. In that spot, we get images of the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Basketball teams, in somber black-and-white, first in the locker room, then those same images projected onto buildings. There are stars and stripes and images of a less traditionally Americana-style America–playground basketball courts, southern porches, city streets–peppered throughout, offering a different take on the patriotism than the Olympics offers, but one that feels very legitimate.