What's the Big Idea?

By Published on .

Another day, another great Nike campaign, from Wieden & Kennedy. The new "Why Sport?" series, which debuted during the Olympics; illustrates the unlikely benefits of athleticism. In one spot, superbiker Lance Armstrong resuscitates an elephant. In another, a kid on a skateboard evades an urban gladiator. In the most infamous spot from this campaign, a young woman (track star Suzy Hamilton) primping in the bathroom finds herself under attack by a masked maniac with a chainsaw. She catches sight of him in the bathroom mirror, and as he lunges for her, she dashes past him and begins running, screaming, through the woods. While she leaps nimbly over stone walls and branches, he is awkward and sluggish. In the end, the masked predator is left in the dust, panting, while the untouched victim easily runs away. The title tag: "Why sport? You'll live longer."

Hal Curtis and Jim Riswold conceived the campaign, and they knew the "Why sport?" theme was a winner when the ideas started pouring in from their creative teams. "All we were trying to do was show to an audience that may be somewhat cynical about the role of athletics in life, that, yes, athletics can make a difference in life," explains Riswold. "Everyday situations turned on their heads, popular culture twisted and bizarre situations all were fair game as long as it could be demonstrated that a bit of athleticism could change the outcome for the better."

NBC pulled the horror spot off the air early in the Olympics, because a record number of viewers called to complaint that the ad "ruined their Olympic moment," says Riswold. Both Curtis and Riswold were surprised and displeased with NBC's decision, especially given the positive message they feel the commercial conveys; in this horror movie, the "victim" gets away. "The fact that some people don't get that is scary. Much more frightening than a homicidal maniac from a slasher film," says Curtis.

"I would give my last dollar if it would help some people distinguish between reality and a joke," Riswold remarks drily.

Though the horror spot generated the most buzz, each of the commercials has its own element of excitement. Curtis intimates that his favorite spot was the elephant resuscitation scene.

'`During filming, the elephant kept coughing up this nasty snot-like substance and spewing it all over Lance. But it never seemed to bother him. Considering what he's been through, I guess it seemed like nothing."

Client: Nike CD: Hal Curtis, Jim Riswold Horror: AD: Scott Vitrone CW: Ian Reichenthal Agency Producer: Chris Noble Production Company: Villains/LA Director: Phil Joanou Editor: Paul Norling, Filmcore/LA Postproduction: CO3/LA Elephant: CW: Kash Sree AD: Andy Fackrell Agency Producer:Alicia Hamilton Production Company: Propaganda/LA Director: Dante Ariola Editor:Angus Wall, Rock, Paper, Scissors Gladiator: AD: Hal Curtis CW: Jim Riswold Agency Producer: Henry Lu Production Company: @radical.media Director: Tarsem Editor: Robert Duffy, SpotWelders

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