The Olympics are in full swing. The worlds best athletes, gathered together to challenge each other to do better. Muscled and toned, their bodies honed to eye-drooling perfection from years of training in the pursuit of perfection — pushing the boundaries of achievement seemingly every time they compete.
In many ways the inherent design of the games — the way they only happen every 4 years, the fact that the majority of the competitors are amateurs (to the point where many of them are little more than children), and the continual drive by NBC to highlight the amount of sacrifice and dedication it takes for these special people to reach this level — serves as a reminder of human potential itself. Of what results effort can bring.
Which is all well and good if you have a 6-year old who loves ping pong and tons of free time on your hands, but can sometimes be a little mentally frustrating if you’re watching all of this happen sitting on a couch and eating directly from a can of Pringles.
Which is perhaps what inspired the folks at Nike to create this ad:
The ad has accrued nearly 1 million views on YouTube, with hundreds of commenters discussing the physical fitness of Nathan Sorrell, a 200-pound 12-year-old from London, Ohio.
But Nathan himself was inspired from the experience shooting the commercial, in which he ran so much he threw up, and he and his mother have vowed to change their lives and their diets. The 5’3″ middle-schooler was selected to be part of Nike’s international Find Your Greatness campaign as part of the manufacturer’s latest Olympic-conscious push.
For the shoot, Nathan had to jog numerous times down Old Xenia Road behind a Porsche with a camera and boom fixed atop in, panting after the director and his crew.
Nike said they would return to film him if he stayed dedicated to his goal.
But because there’s nothing in this country that can’t be politicized anymore and thrown to the debate wolves — as you might expect the commercial has also drawn criticism from several sources worried that the ad is exploiting the image of this 12 year-old boy and perpetuating harmful stereotypes about the overweight and out of shape.
It’s a delicate question, because obesity is a very real problem with serious health consequences. But there is worrying over the overall well-being of a culture and then there is shaming fat people for being disgusting when clearly all you have to do to change your life is get off your hump and plod down the highway until you puke like wide load over here did until the director in the Porsche told him he could stop.
In a lot of ways I’m torn about this issue. I love the idea that Nike of all companies is making this statement. I love the feel of the ad, the simplicity, and especially the fact that at NO point during the commercial is it apparent that the kid is wearing Nike shoes or Nike clothes. I love that a multi-billion dollar corporation spent their own money during the Olympics of all things and basically said, “You don’t need our shoes, you don’t need our stuff — all you need is the will to do better.“
But I’m also aware enough to know that despite the fact that millions of people have seen this ad (especially now that it’s gone viral) that the target audience for Nike is anything but this kid, or me. It’s impossible to ignore the fact that along with this inspirational message is an underlying effort to focus on all the rippling, ugly details of what this really looks like to everybody else.
The hater in me can’t help but imagine the skinny bitch everyday exerciser who lives every day on a diet of rice crackers and self-importance nodding to herself because Nike just patted her on the back for being 12 billion steps ahead of the rest of us, and judging by the fact that this kid couldn’t go 2 takes without puking — the natural order of fatties continuing to lose is in no danger whatsoever.
And if you had any doubts of that, perhaps this redubbing of the commercial that’s been making the rounds can help:
A swift kick in the ass is important, especially if what you lack most of all in your efforts to live healthy is the desire and discipline to actually do something about it and see that effort all the way through. But we all know that in most cases there’s waaay more to losing weight and reversing bad health habits than just getting up and running.
So what do you think? Has Nike’s commercial got it’s heart in the right place — or are they just piling on?