Sports may be on hiatus, but sports metaphors will always be with us.
Nike and Wieden + Kennedy, which have stepped up a few times with inspiring messaging during the Covid-19 pandemic, unleashed a new commercial Saturday morning—and it's the most spine-tingly so far.
Narrated by LeBron James, it opens on pro athletes at their low points, in competitive dire straits—down in the game, down in the series, facing elimination and the loss of the dream. The implied comparison, of course, is to the challenge all of humanity is facing during the current crisis.
But while down, the athletes are certainly not out.
To state the obvious, it's an utter joy to watch these epic comeback stories—featuring LeBron, Serena Williams, Tiger Woods, Naomi Osaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rafael Nadal, the Chicago Cubs, the U.S. women's soccer team and more. Especially in the wake of The Last Dance, we're craving the irresistible narratives that the sports world is uniquely good at providing. And clearly we'll take stories of the past for now, until we can write some new ones.
James, of course, is a good spokesman for this, with his Cleveland Cavaliers having come from 3-1 down in the 2016 NBA Finals to defeat the Golden State Warriors. Indeed, a central image in the new spot is LeBron famously blocking Andre Iguodala's shot with the score tied in the waning moments of 2016's Game 7.
The whole spot is nicely structured, too, with a full 30 seconds devoted to failure and uncertainty, followed by 50 seconds of comeback and triumph. Then, in a nice 10-second coda, the brand looks forward to the day sports will begin again (whenever that might be).
Lance Acord of Park Pictures directed the spot, with Robert Duffy of Spot Welders editing. The script is credited to W+K copywriter Kevin Steele. The music is Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' cover of David Bowie's "Life on Mars," originally done for an episode of HBO’s Watchmen. (It's piano music, yes, but not the cheesy stuff.)
"The whole world, we're fighting for something bigger than a championship right now," James says in a statement. "People are struggling, and this continues to be an incredibly difficult time. For me, thinking forward to a time when we'll be able to play again, it keeps me going. Even if basketball looks different for a while, I'm excited about the possibility of getting back in the game because I know how inspiring and powerful sports can be. I think the lessons we learn from sport can inspire us all."
"Never Too Far Down" will air on TV including during the The Match: Champions for Charity featuring Woods, Phil Mickelson, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning (which airing Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on TNT, TBS, truTV and HLN).
Campaign Never Too Far Down
Executive Creative Directors Eric Baldwin, Jason Bagley
Creative Directors Alberto Ponte, Ryan O’Rourke
Art Director Lee Jennings
Copywriter Kevin Steele
Head of Production Matt Hunnicutt
Executive Producers Jake Grand, Krystle Mortimore
Producer Emily Knight
Associate Producer Shani Storey
Group Brand Director Andre Gustavo
Brand Director Kate Rutkowski
Brand Manager Steve Smith
Group Strategy Director Paula Bloodworth
Global Group Media Director Daniel Sheniak
US Group Media Director Reme DeBisschop
Associate Media Director Emily Dalton
Media Supervisor Graham Wallace
Sr. Business Affairs Managers Laura Caldwell, Adam Caviezel
Integrated Traffic Managers Sabrina Reddy, Billy Mucha
Sr. Creative Operations Manager David Ramirez
Studio Manager Michael Frediani
Retoucher Amy Ellars
Designers Nick Humbel, Mitch Wilson
Production Company Park Pictures
Director Lance Acord
Executive Producer Jackie Kelman Bisbee
EP / Producer Caroline Kousidonis
Production Manager Joe Faulstich
Company Spot Welders
Editor Robert Duffy
Assistant Editor JC Nunez
Assistant Editor Fatos Marishta
Managing Partner David Glean
Executive Producer Carolina Padilla
VFX Company Shipping + Handling
Creative Director, Lead VFX Casey Price
Creative Director, VFX Jerry Spivack
VFX James Buongiorno, Johannes Gamble, Evelyn Lee, Rachel Moorer
Managing Partner David Glean
VFX Executive Producer Scott Friske, Dustin LaForce
Color Company A52
Colorist Daniel De Vue
Color Executive Producer Thatcher Peterson
Color Producer Jenny Bright
Mix Company Joint Editorial
Audio Mixer Natalie Huizenga
Executive Producer Leslie Carthy
Senior Executive Producer Sara Matarazzo
Executive Producer Stephanie Pigott
Producer Danielle Soury
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross “Life on Mars?” by David Bowie