Through New Year's, we'll be counting down the best work of the year in TV/Film/Branded Content, Print/Outdoor/Design and Interactive/Integrated (IX) as our picks of the day.
At No. 5 in TV/Film, we saw plenty of amazing Nike ads in the past year, including the powerful golf spot that showed how young pro Rory McIlroy rose to fame inspired by Tiger Woods, the rollicking ad illustrating how superjocks have out-of-this-world fun when they're snowed in and "Inner Thoughts," which illustrated the messy mind-talk women can have during their workouts. The latter idea continues in what was our favorite Nike spot from 2015, "Last," which celebrates the unlikeliest marathon heroes -- those in last place, who carry on to the finish line, even as the winners are out celebrating and the cleaning crew has begun sweeping up after the big event.
When this Nike running ad begins, the winner of a marathon has already crossed the finish line and perhaps most of the competitors are donning their shiny metallic heat capes and heading off to brunch for a post-race celebration. But you see none of that, as the camera lingers on the race route, following those tenacious last few runners struggling to make it to the goal line.
The spot, titled "Last," starts with a long, continuous shot trailing that final group, some dragging their feet, some placing hand on achey hip while dodging race detritus scattered along the route as cleaning crew sweeps up for the day. An Aretha Franklin cover of Brenda Holloway and Ed Cobb's soulful "Every Little Bit Hurts" plays in the background as a voiceover from actress Rooney Mara explains the runners' grueling, triumphant journey:
If you look up the word marathon, it will tell you that the first person that ran 26.2 miles died. He died. And he was a runner.
You are not a runner. You are especially not a marathon runner, but at the end of this, you will be.
The ad then cuts to the face of one woman, perhaps the last runner, whose face drips with sweat and exhaustion but also somehow, subtly, exudes a sense of triumph.
According to Nike, the ad launches with the approach of Fall marathon season and "celebrates not only the last athlete who crosses the finish line, but also the imperfect journey of every runner. Anyone can be a runner; all you have to do is run."
The spot was directed by Park Pictures' Lance Acord, in a style reminiscent of the solitary struggle of the boy jogger from the Nike "Find Your Greatness" campaign. Ms. Mara donated her fee for working on the spot to the Uweza Foundation, an organization dedicated to fighting the poverty in Kenya's Kibera slum.