• Fri, Aug 3 2012

New Nike Ad Uses An Overweight 12-Year-Old; How Do We Feel About This?

nike ad find your greatness

Nike, who has long been considered a pioneer of advertising, has a new commercial. But instead of featuring a ripped athlete or swanky pair of shoes, it’s a long shot of an overweight 12-year-old kid from Ohio, jogging down a rural road. The message? That anyone can achieve personal greatness. How do you feel about it?

Part of their “Find Your Greatness” campaign, which highlights real people and offers an alternative to the Olympics madness, the ad is simply called “Jogger,” and features Nathan, who is 12, exercising by himself.

My initial feeling was that I was really inspired by the use of a real person who was trying to improve his life/health with a jog. And after watching it a few times, I’m pretty sure I just love this ad. I love Nathan. I hope he runs until he feels awesome about himself. I hope he inspires other kids to run.

But a quick check of the comments section on YouTube (I know, who does that? Me. I do that. Because I am a glutton for human cruelty and curious spelling choices, apparently), shows that there are definitely some different responses. One commenter called it exploitation. Is it? Or is it really awesome and some people will think anything is exploitative? Are the people who don’t like it just the kind of people who don’t like anything, or is this something that more people are taking issue with?

Readers, watch the video and then take our poll to let us know what you think about this Nike ad. I’m curious to see what other peoples’ reactions are.

Sorry! This poll is now closed.

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  • Fran

    The young lad represents a desire to achieve a healthier lifestyle choice that takes courage to do, so why read less into the ad.

  • Lastango

    Myself, I have two different reactions.

    I think the voice-over message is blather. By the time it was done, I hadn’t the foggiest idea what the speaker meant by “greatness”. Athletic? Moral? Strength of character? Who knows. And that may well have been the intent: to produce a vessel into which the hearer is tacitly invited to pour whatever they want. There’s something cheap and banal about that sort of gesture. They think we’re dupes. It’s a bit like the sham we get from some celebrities. The right sunglasses, the right hair, and they not only leave us thinking they have it all together, but that they’re ultrawise and know how we should be helping Africa. This con only works if we stop at the surface.

    I very much like the figure, though. It reminds me of a man, perhaps in his early 50′s, who began running on the sidewalk around a schoolyard near where I lived. I would see him out in the evening, headband on, and his big belly swaying as he clumped down the street. Yup, he looked odd. Someone we might laugh about if we saw him, like those new-years-resolution folks who show up at the gym never to be seen again.

    But then I saw him again. And again. He hung in there. And he slowly but very clearly improved as the months went by. After a while, I was looking for him, because I liked to watch him persevere and succeed, and I liked the feeling of respect I had for him.

  • Matt

    I can’t say what Nike was thinking with this particular ad as I was not there. I know that there ultimate goal is to sell shoes. However, what I see here is an overweight preteen being encouraged to achieve personal greatness. I see a person that just about any preteen can connect with and be encouraged by. I see an person that many teens and even adults could connect with and receive encouragement.

    Preteens these days struggle with self-worth. What I see from this ad is an overweight preteen being encouraged to “Find YOUR greatness.”

    I enjoy swimming, but it I look at Micheal Phelps and try to attain HIS greatness, then I will be discouraged. That does not, however, mean that I am not capable of greatness. It simply means that MY greatness lies somewhere outside the pool.

    To Nike I say, “BRAVO”

    To every child, preteen, teen and adult that watches this add I say, “Find YOUR greatness.”

  • Claire

    I feel that in this site the philosophy is always “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. I failed to see how this is “exploiting” anyone. This kid was paid to do this, chose to do it and probably gets a kick out of saying “I’m the guy in the Nike commercial”. Furthermore, nobody would be accusing Nike of exploiting someone fit in a similar commercial, so why is the fact that they hired someone who’s overweight exploitation. To me that argument sound quite discriminative.

    As for the message, I find it is actually a good one. It means try your best, don’t focus on perfection but on improvement. As a less than stellar athlete I can relate to that. If we all quit things for not being perfect we wouldn’t get to do things that while we are bad/average at bring us joy.

    • Lastango

      I would have liked it if the message is the one you heard: try your best, keep improving. I equate that with “be all you can be”, and think that would be just the right note.

      But that isn’t “greatness” — at least not to my ear. Greatness is all about perfection, and excludes nearly all of us.

      What did they mean by greatness? I haven’t a clue, and that’s my fundamental problem with this ad.

      (Again, no problem with the kid. He’s a great choice. The visual message to his effort is “keep trying, keep moving, getting something worth having is never easy, reward comes at the end of effort”. IMO the voice-over jams that signal with hypertalk.)

    • Lauren

      I wish I could reply to @Lastango. This ad is all about redefining greatness! Greatness has nothing to do with perfection. “Greatness” means going out and doing something that is great for you. I sure couldn’t go out and run a marathon tomorrow, but greatness for me would be finding the motivation to go out there and train until I could. Greatness is all about motivation and pushing past barriers.

      I think this ad is fantastic. It doesn’t mock his size. It doesn’t imply that fat people need to lose weight. It doesn’t imply that fat people can’t be healthy. It just implies that everyone can go out and find a way to better themselves and be healthier.

  • L

    saw this during the olympics a few days ago…definitely touched me. its refreshing for a commercial to actually be realistic–sadly, this is reality for a lot of kids these days. A+

  • cindy

    Wonderful and inspiring! We all have a “Greatness”…listen to the words being said…there is nothing convoluted about it…it’s just sending the message that we all have a “Greatness” and we have to find it…also that the term “Greatness” has been misconstrued along the way and that only the fit, the athletic, the celebrities, the entertainers who recieve media recognition are Great, which is far from the truth…we are all great! The young boy is overweight, he is running alone in a very serene and calming background with only the sound of his feet hitting the gravel road…with no one around to be compared to…he has found his greatness…him!

  • amy

    love this commercial! greatness isnt about being perfect. everybody has greatness in them…..their own greatness.

  • Supercabas

    The people who say that Nike did this to sell shoes are missing the point of the ad. Nike has made it very clear over the last few years that they are concerned about the fattening of America, because they know that a less active population means a smaller consumer base. They have made a huge effort through their marketing and their product innovations to encourage people to get active again. While not purely altruistic, I applaud Nike for continuing to drive the message of sport in our society. We have to get moving or we’ll eat ourselves to death.

    • Lastango

      I think you’ve really got something there. The ad shows someone who is very overweight and who is trying to do something about it.

      IMO, one of our serious cultural flaws is that we’ve made an art form of validating each other and approving our weaknesses. Over in PC Britain, there’s a proposal to make calling someone fat a hate crime. Here, we defend obesity by accusing someone of “fat-shaming”. I think it’s no coincidence that back when being fat was considered a Bad Thing, there were very few fat people.

      There is no accepting going on in that ad’s visuals, and that’s a very good thing.

  • Suz

    This is so real! I was slash am that kid. I live in ohio and was overweight. I did this same thing. Started jogging then eating healthier, eventually i got to running like a pro and was in great shape. This should an inspiration to so many people. If he can do it, you can do it. Someone needs to represent the amazing determination of people! Thank Nike for giving Nathan the reconintion he deserves!

  • Danielle

    I think this ad is fantastic. I love the message it sends–greatness/heroes aren’t born, they’re made. People either rise to the occasion or they don’t but no one is born great or born a hero. This is also vey American–despite our given circumstances we make our own future/destiny. I’m sick of people being offended by everything. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

    • Danielle

      Also, I forgot to add this to my initial post, the ad isn’t promoting any particular item. It’s just a sweaty kid running down the street. You can barely make out what his shoes look like.

  • Mike

    Although I don’t we should be looking to companies for inspiration, I have to admit that was a great commercial. Keep it up Nathan!!!

  • Dental Implants Hungary

    congratulations to the young man

  • Anna

    I like the ad. I like the vagueness in the idea of “greatness”. We don’t know this boy’s goal; it could be to make a school sports team, could be to impress the cute girl down the street who likes to jog, or it could be as simple as running for 5 min longer than he did last week. Whatever the goal, it’s clearly difficult for him, but he’s doing it anyways and that’s a great message to send. We can’t all be great athletes, but we can all set goals for ourselves and do what it takes to reach them

  • Janice

    I freakin love this ad!!!! I am Nathan!!! This me me striving for “greatness”!

  • Elaine jean

    I saw this young man on the “Today Show” this morning and LOVED it and him. How DARE anyone make fun of this precious child who has taken on the task of losing weight by running. As he said this morning the haters will only motivate him to do more. I hope he loses weight, Nike shows him again and he makes a BOATLOAD of money. He deserves it!!!! May God Bless all who reads this!

    • Melva Richards

      Couldn’t have said it any better Elaine Jean. Ditto to your comments!

  • Kathleen

    You ROCK Nathan! I’m heavy-ish. (Used to be heavier) I’m 50, and I run at least every other day. (In my Nikes!) I get some stares and I get some comments and it was hard at first to ignore. But then the weight started to slowly come off and I started to get better at it and hopefully, I’ll be doing this for the rest of my life. So while you’re chugging on down the road, if anyone cares to make a rude coment, just keep saying to yourself the same thing I do. “I’m doing this, I’M DOING this, I’M DOING THIS! and you’re not!”

  • leland

    My wife is a Registered Detain together at sixty years old we go to the gym at least every other day we are sadden to see young people not caring for themselves over eating, eating too much of the wrong type of foods, and not working out. This country will not be able to care for the vast amount of health problems related to being overweight very soon. As a nation we cannot minimize the cost of this epidemic or hope pay for it. Run Nathan run.

  • Rizz

    I didn’t even realize this was a Nike ad until reading this post. I just thought it was an excellent public service announcement showing that anyone, no matter what shape they were in can strive to better and motivate themselves. I thought it was inspirational.

  • susan

    I think it’s great and it’s real. It’s not exploiting him – it’s sending a message that doing something is better than doing nothing, even if you will never be Michael Jordan. Being yourself is great! It would be different if it was showing something to promote plastic surgery or something to get the perfect nose or chin etc, but this kid isn’t healthy, and he knows it. He doesn’t have to get buff, but every pound he loses will add years to his life. Well done Nathan! I’m proud of you.

  • olivia

    This ad is awesome. He is doing something that will make for a lasting healthy routine that will potentially add years to his life.
    I would like to see more inspirational ads . Help people to conquer their
    fears regarding self-esteem and other issues. Build them up instead of tearing them down.

    Hooray for Nike!

  • Pamela

    Thank you Nike and Nathan! My 12 yr old son has battled with extensive health issues since birth, and since many steroid treatments and inability to exercise for many years has caused him to be overweight at 5’1 and 172lbs. He finds himself bullied over his size and becomes upset because despite his limited diet he has not been successful at losing weight. He continuously has complained about feeling alone in his battles and goals. However, after I saw your story, I showed it to my son. He is so excited to finally realize he is NOT alone and that despite the difficulties he faces there is no reason for him not to try a little harder, while at the same time, block out the insults bullies love to throw his way. He has determined to stay focused and strive a little harder to reach his goal of not only weight loss, but healthier lifestyle. I hope you, Nathan, inspired yourself as much as you have inspired my son!

  • Alicia

    Loved it and saw the ad as a positive.

    • Melva Richards

      Concur wholeheartedly!

  • Carol

    Absolutely love it!! Its the best ad I have seen in years!! I couldn’t wait for it to play again!! VERY INSPIRATIONAL!!!!!