Nike years ago adopted the marketing mantra, “If you have a body, you’re an athlete.”
It makes sense that a global athletic footwear-and-apparel maker would want to encourage individuals of every persuasion to visualize themselves as sporty and active.
But as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic — and the multiple ways it has taken aim at the economy and people’s physical and psychological health — the Swoosh’s insistence that we all view ourselves as agile, vigorous athletes who can overcome obstacles with a mind-over-matter approach, is resonating more than ever.
The brand today unveils a new “film” inspired by the global health crisis. Dubbed, Never Too Far Down, the minute-and-a-half-long video is narrated by NBA superstar athlete LeBron James and features several historical disappointing-turned-triumphant moments for global athletes such as Serena Williams, Tiger Woods, Rafael Nadal, Cristiano Ronaldo, Naomi Osaka, Paul George — and James.
“We’ve all been underestimated and counted out,” James says as the video opens depicting the then-Cleveland-Cavaliers power forward in 2016 after shouldering a devastating loss to the Golden State Warriors in a championship game. A sportscaster’s voice echoes ‘No one’s ever come back from 3-1.”
“In those moments, we felt like it was over,” James’ voice continues. “But it’s when we’re given no chance that we somehow found that last bit of strength to keep fighting. Then we did what no one thought we could — not even ourselves — we came back from the impossible. From being broken. We found a way when it seemed hopeless. We came back when we should’ve been long forgotten. We did it, time and time again. Right now, we’re fighting for something much bigger than a win or championship. But if we’ve learned anything from sports, it’s that no matter how far down we may be, we’re never too far down to come back.”
The short film follows Nike’s much-heralded campaign that launched in March, when the pandemic first took hold in the U.S., and the brand encouraged millions across social media to stay inside and “play for the world.”
“If you ever dreamed of playing for millions around the world, now is your chance,” the campaign’s tagline read. “Play inside, play for the world.”
It’s an attitude scores of Nike athletes have had to take on in recent weeks as the coronavirus, in some ways, served as a powerful equalizer (although the health crisis has also laid bare other economic and health disparities in certain communities).
“This time has been like nothing else,” said Williams in statement about Nike’s latest project. “I mean, I’m no longer playing tennis! No one is. I’ve been playing tennis for over 20 years, and never has a tournament been canceled in my career for any reason until now. It’s such a unique time in history … with all these global challenges around the COVID virus and how it’s impacting all of us in ways that are the same and also so different.”
Nike has been among the big name footwear and apparel firms, including Under Armour and New Balance, in recent months to have shifted resources toward the fight against COVID-19. The Beaverton, Ore.-based athletic company announced last month that its innovation, manufacturing and product teams had developed face shields and powered, air-purifying respirator (PAPR) lenses in partnership with health professionals from Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). It later said it had doled out about 130,000 units of PPE to 20-plus hospitals in Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon and Tennessee.
So far, including contributions from several current and former Nike’s leaders, the Nike Foundation and Nike, the Swoosh said it has committed more than $25 million to COVID-19 response efforts around the world. The company announced early this month that it would donate 32,500 pairs of Air Zoom Pulse sneakers as well as other product, totaling more than $5.5 million in value, to health-care workers in the hardest-hit global cities such as New York City, Barcelona, Berlin, Chicago and London.