Lena Waithe plays shoe shrink to Shalane Flanagan in Nike's latest ad

Emmy winner tries to help the long-distance runner clear her head ahead of the Boston Marathon

Published On
Apr 09, 2018

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Ahead of winning the New York Marathon last year, long-distance runner Shalane Flanagan had a gut-wrenching nightmare--she dreamed that right before the race, someone had stolen her shoes--her Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4 percents, to be specific.

This true story serves as the springboard for Nike's latest ad, which drops just ahead of Flanagan's next race this weekend, The Boston Marathon.

In the spot, Flanagan shares her horror story with her "shoe therapist," played by Emmy-winning actor/writer Lena Waithe ("Master of None"), who tries to talk her down: "But then you woke up, you ran the marathon, and you won?" Flanagan quickly corrects her, saying, "WE won," looking down lovingly at her neon red trainers.

Therein lies the problem, as it becomes clear that Flanagan eats, thinks, and breathes her Vaporflys. But she's not the only one obsessed. Turns out, there are other pros lining up to see the shoe shrink. There's the Golden State Warriors' Draymond Green, who coddles his sneakers in a baby sling; San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman, who pads his pair in bubble wrap or pro skateboarder Paul Rodriguez, who cleans his kicks an electric toothbrush, among others.

The spot was created out of Dirty Robber, which had been one of Nike's creative and production partners on the groundbreaking "Breaking2" campaign, which documented athletes, in real time, attempting to break the two-hour marathon barrier--while wearing the same shoes that Flanagan obsesses over.

The brief from Nike was to build off Flanagan's shoe dream, which led to the larger story of shoe obsession across a host of athletes, says Dirty Robber's executive producer Jason Puris.

Dirty Robber director Martin Desmond Roe worked with Nike on the storyline, while Waithe was free to improv on set. "We fed her a few small details and she just went with it," Puris says.

For the rest of the cast, Dirty Robber set out to find other athletes and personalities who had special relationships with their footwear. One of the spot's stars, sneaker head Sean Wotherspoon, for example, just dropped his own collaboration with Nike.

The spot will be airing online and on broadcast, with other athlete extensions to appear in social, online and out of home.