It's been a tough week for Nike, but the sportswear brand ends it on a sky-high note with "Dream Crazier," the latest "Just Do It" commercial—a stirring salute to women athletes, narrated by Serena Williams, airing Sunday night on the Oscars.
The Wieden + Kennedy production is a follow-up to "Dream Crazy," the celebrated W+K spot from last year narrated by (and featuring) Colin Kaepernick, among other athletes. But while that earlier ad focused on one meaning of "crazy"—that dreaming of greatness in sports is, one some level, foolhardy—the new one cuts sharply to the heart of the female athlete's experience. By passionately pursuing sports, she risks being labeled literally crazy.
No one knows this better than Williams, who, despite being the greatest tennis player ever, experienced a notorious backlash last summer when she had a public argument with a chair umpire at the U.S. Open. Such outbursts are largely accepted from male athletes; not so from females.
Nike's new :90 touches on exactly that double standard. And while it uses other examples of on-court anger—not Williams'—to illustrate it, the point comes across loud and clear. To excel in sports as a woman means overcoming hurdles that men never have to dream about. Thus, "Dream Crazier."
The spot isn't just about overcoming adversity. It's also about the glory and joy of success—which is that much sweeter when the road is harder. Check out the spot below, which balances all these dynamics wonderfully.
Along with Williams, the spot stars WNBA legend Lisa Leslie, Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, U.S. soccer star Alex Morgan, San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon and Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad. It also features a slew of teenage (and younger) athletes, including skateboarder Sky Brown, soccer star Olivia Moultrie and boxer Chantel Navarro.
The Oscars spot caps a remarkable advertising run for Williams. It's her third straight ad appearance in a major award show, for three different brands—having appeared in a Super Bowl spot for Bumble and a Grammys ad for Lincoln.
Below, read the text of Williams' Nike voiceover:
If we show emotion, we're called dramatic. If we want to play against men, we're nuts. And if we dream of equal opportunity, we're delusional. When we stand for something, we're unhinged. When we're too good, there's something wrong with us. And if we get angry, we're hysterical, irrational, or just being crazy.
But a woman running a marathon was crazy. A woman boxing was crazy. A woman dunking, crazy. Coaching an NBA team, crazy. A woman competing in a hijab; changing her sport; landing a double-cork 1080; or winning 23 grand slams, having a baby, and then coming back for more, crazy, crazy, crazy, and crazy.
So if they want to call you crazy, fine. Show them what crazy can do.