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Nike’s 50th Anniversary Campaign is a Masterclass in Reaching Multiple Demographics

Jordan P. Kelley, Content Director, BrandStorytelling

Mid-May saw the launch of Nike’s 50th anniversary campaign across tv, digital, and social. At its center is a new film for the brand by Spike Lee, titled Seen It All. In it, Spike reprises his role as the motor-mouthed Mars Blackmon, who appeared in Lee’s first major film She’s Gotta Have It and returned for a series of Nike Spots with Michael Jordan in the late 80’s / early 90’s (It’s gotta be the shoes!). Seen It All sees the return of Mars after 30 years; He’s still wearing his signature cycling hat, gold chain, and large frames, all while running his mouth. What’s different is that this time around, we’re introduced to a new character.

In this iteration, Zimmie, played by Indigo Hubbard-Salk, sits across from Blackmon as they play chess in the park. The young woman doesn’t just let Mars do all the talking, or feed him one-word answers like Jordan did in the early 90’s. Instead, she fires back, matching Mars’s energy. She’s a Mars Blackmon for a new generation, just as this ad is for a new generation – and the two being in conjunction with one another is no accident. Lee’s return to the spot as a director and an actor is a savvy one for both himself and Nike, in that he takes the opportunity to capitalize on the longevity of his character, while building in accessibility and relevance for a new generation.

The film is built around a park chess match between Mars and Zimmie. The ad plays out as a match as well, with Mars volleying an avalanche of information across the board at Zimmie, touting all the greatest athletes of his generation. But Zimmie, a character with plenty of opinions of her own, volleys back, singing the praises of today’s modern greats across many sports. The film captures the spirit of inter-generational sports conversations that happen all the time today. These “GOAT” (Greatest of All Time) conversations have become a fixture of modern sports talk and are relevant to the younger demo that Lee and Nike are working to connect with in this film. The work to connect with the younger demo doesn’t stop there - In the same way that Lee is working to reach a younger audience using the creative, Nike works to reach a younger audience in their method of ad distribution.

Although brands are often discouraged from using a single piece of content across all their different distribution channels, with this film, Nike pulls it off in a way that suggests intelligent intention. Using the nearly 5-minute film as its source material, Nike creates all its other marketing materials out of the original. But unlike so many others who simply try to copy/paste the original work into 30 second spots and Instagram stories, Nike has taken the time to tailor the content to each of its unique distribution platforms. The film is cut down to 30 and 15 second spots in ways that fit and uses stills that capture the essence of the whole. But perhaps the most impressive is their use of the source material on TikTok. Instead of repurposing the 15 or 30 second spots and dropping them into the social platform, the work is modulated and interpolated, emulating the way that content is created and made popular on TikTok.

Herein lies the secret sauce that makes this whole campaign special. Nike’s 50th anniversary film from Spike Lee builds off pre-existing ads, creating something lasting and narrative driven. It advances the long-form story to include a younger demographic, then appeals to that younger demographic by interpolating the content, reaching the new audience not just where they live, but in the way they live there. By updating the story and the medium, the message is easily received across multiple demographics. So the Mars’s of the world can enjoy the billboards and the 30 second spots they catch on TV while the Zimmie’s enjoy having Zimmie herself pop up on their TikTok feed and maybe, just maybe, wind up watching the whole film on YouTube. The 50th anniversary film and the way it’s been chopped and remixed for a variety of platforms represents a very savvy move on Nike’s part, demonstrating that there is an elegant, layered way to reach every audience where they live with the right content and the right distribution method.


About Jordan P. Kelley

Jordan P. Kelley is the Content Director at BrandStorytelling. He is the author of BrandStorytelling's twice weekly newsletter and editor of the Brand Storytelling Forbes Brand Voice Page. He is an avid brand film and advertising trendwatcher and considers himself a "Professional Audience Member".


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