The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted and affected almost every aspect of business and culture, and one of the most high profile of these has been live sports. Whether it’s soccer, basketball, baseball, the Olympics, hockey, or any other, professional leagues and amateur competition were all stopped, then eventually have begun the cautious road back to some semblance of normalcy.
Nike was one of the first brands to recognize this new reality, when it posted an ad asking people to stay home and “Play for the World” by social distancing and isolating to minimize the spread of the virus. It followed up that initial spot in May with a LeBron-narrated ad that focused on the comeback spirit of sports, in an effort to fight any sense of pandemic fatigue and cynicism after months of no live sports.
Now the brand releases the third spot in this “You Can’t Stop Us” series, a montage of 53 athletes across 24 sports, narrated by American soccer star Megan Rapinoe.
Created by agency Wieden + Kennedy, the athletes featured include Rapinoe, LeBron James, Naomi Osaka, Eliud Kipchoge, Caster Semenya, Cristiano Ronaldo, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Serena Williams, Colin Kaepernick, and Kylian Mbappé. Among the clips in the 90-second commercial are Kaepernick and other athletes kneeling to protest police brutality and racial inequality, speeches by James and Rapinoe, shots of medical staff disinfecting stadium seats, and athletes wearing masks.
As the latest of the brand’s pep talks, Nike leans in harder on using this unprecedented moment to rethink what normal will look like on the other side of it, particularly when it comes to gender and racial equality. Given the brand’s standing in uniforms and apparel, perhaps the only surprise was there was no mention of the renewed momentum behind changing team names with racist roots.
In a statement, Rapinoe said, “Players may be back on the pitch, but we are not going back to an old normal. We need to continue to reimagine this world and make it better. We have all these people in the streets, using their voices, and those voices are being heard. I ask people to be energized by this moment and not let up. I believe it’s everybody’s responsibility to advocate for change.”
Appropriately, the new spot’s TV debut will be tonight’s restart of the NBA season.