Still reeling from the slow build of its Caster Semenya ad, we weren't at all prepared for the frenetic, contagious energy of "Rallying Cry," the latest "Just Do It" spot from Nike.
Brought to you, as always and often, by Wieden + Kennedy, the piece is a minute-long montage of women in various states of physical tension, then release. At the outset it feels solitary, underscoring the sense that our biggest tests are faced alone.
But as the barbell rises, the goal is met, and the bikes go flying, and that compact kinetic energy explodes into a shared series of ecstatic and childlike victory shouts. "Make the world listen," Nike concludes, which, at this time in the lives of women, says a hell of a lot.
Last year, W+K deployed a series of Nike Women ads into several distinct regions, recognizing the power of female physicality and will in ways that felt both local and universal.
In terms of its own treatment of women, the months that followed have been tumultuous at best for the iconic sports brand. But there's still something to be said for the distinct way Nike talks to us about the road to triumph: It never denies the suffering, loneliness or intense mental discipline that achievement requires. And it positions the battle at hand as one waged more for oneself than for a crowd (which, as the Semenya ad reminds us, isn't unconditionally loving).
Lastly, it subtly positions those battles as ongoing, any victory a mere punctuation on a long journey.
But it doesn't let those heavy themes weigh us down. The same way you can always trust that Quentin Tarantino will let the heroes win, the dominant sensation you can expect at the conclusion of a Nike spot is always one of untethered, contagious joy, even if we know the battle is far from won.
That's a beautiful thing—especially given that, like our never-ending combat with change, the road to gender recognition on a level playing field is a long game, littered with as many setbacks as victories. Even a small, unseen dose of the latter is enough to loosen the pressure valve on the long way forward.