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 #3 in our countdown of 2016's best work is Nike's spot that aired during the Rio Olympics opening ceremony. W&K and directors The Daniels go beyond what you'd expect from a typical Nike ad, as athletes, both real-life and unknown, go beyond their limits, to a fantastical, ridiculous degree, at one point shattering the Nike "Just do it" logo. An increasingly panicky voiceover, from "Star Wars: Force Awakens" actor Oscar Isaac, helps make this this hilarious, memorable and inspiring, all at once.
Nike goes way beyond "Just Do It" in a new spot airing during the Rio Olympics opening ceremony that depicts athletes both unknown and famous in a real-meets-unreal spectacular.
Created out of Wieden & Kennedy, Portland and directed by the Daniels via Prettybird, the film is the second in the brand's "Just Do It -- Unlimited" campaign, which debuted with the "Unlimited Future" film, in which actor Bobby Cannavale gives a locker-room style pep talk to a nursery full of babies who ultimately grow up to be the world's superstars.
The Olympics spot, "Unlimited You," picks up where that one left off, in the crib of a baby and then onto scenes of athletes struggling on the small stage -- an amateur golfer, a young tennis player, a toddler playing basketball in his living room.
"Star Wars: Force Awakens" actor Oscar Isaac provides the voice-over, predicting that these folks aren't going to be newbies forever. "All of these athletes are terrible now, but they'll all do big things one day," he says.
The spot goes on to show average Joes achieving incredible goals, as Mr. Isaac's narration grows increasingly ecstatic. "When everyone pushes their limit they reach their maximum potential and live happily ever after!" he exclaims, just as a male gymnast reaches a perfect L-formation on the rings and the "Just Do It" tag appears.
But at a minute in, that's not even half of it.
The gymnast calls out, "Hey, hey, I'm not done!" and hurls himself through the air to shatter the tagline on screen. And from there, it's just pure bonkers, with Mr. Isaac's voice-over trying to play catch-up as athlete after athlete goes beyond expectations of what a normal superstar can do.
Serena Williams practices her tennis strokes -- against the bat swings of Miami Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton, Zach Lavine and Aaron Gordon make a "crash test" basket that you should definitely not try at home, and one kid seems to school everyone -- including Kevin Durant -- in just about every sport.
"Everybody is going way too far!" Mr. Isaac screams, as the ad closes on a young boy, appearing as if he's about to take on the world with his skateboard. "I got this," he says, and the words "Unlimited You" appear, followed by the return of an intact "Just Do It."
"The end is really just the beginning for someone who's looking to go beyond their limits, and that's what that shattering logo represents," said Nike Global Corporate Communications Director Brian Strong. "Unlimited You' celebrates athletes that break through their perceived limitations and then run past them as if they were never there. The film reflects the full campaign, which is about pushing our potential further than we expected by embracing an unlimited mindset."
"The spot is about athletes pushing their limits more than they thought they could, and then doing more and more and more," added Wieden & Kennedy Copywriter Edward Harrison. "It made sense to us that as the athletes did more and more, that things would get crazier and more frantic to match."
The film's directors, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, better known as "The Daniels," were also behind the recent feature film "Swiss Army Man," starring Daniel Radcliffe, and groundbreaking music videos such as Lil Jon's "Turn Down for What."
"It's always refreshing when everything for the spot is really clearly tied in with the campaign," they explained in a Q&A provided by Nike. "From the moment we were sent the script, we understood that it's about being unlimited, and in this spot, the characters are going further than the narrator expects them to."
As for taking the idea beyond what's expected of a sports ad, "Everyone's used to watching people achieve peak levels," the Daniels said. "We wanted to see what would happen if the athletes almost pushed back and had a little bit more fun."
The idea of "Unlimited" extended to the production process itself. " We were given the opportunity to do a lot of things that I think we normally wouldn't get to do in any commercial in general," they said. The shoot involved a "whirlwind" schedule that covered nearly 30 scenarios over 10 days. "Every day there were 100 challenges to tackle."
The campaign also includes a series of ongoing short films highlighting both everyday and professional athletes who push their limits, as well as profiles on how its premier athletes use the brand's latest innovations.
Nike is applying the "Unlimited" idea not just to its marketing, but to product as well and has introduced the "Unlimited Colorway" inspired by the ideas of bodies in motion, this summer's coming competitions and the vibrant flora and fauna of tropical rainforests.