Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about Wieden + Kennedy’s new “Nothing Beats a Londoner” ad for Nike. In case you haven’t had a chance to watch the sports brand’s newest long-form spot, here it is:
Since the release of the advertisement, there has been tremendous love and praise reaching far beyond the intended London community. In the first five days alone, the video’s views on YouTube reached 2.6 million. As Steven Vranakis, executive creative director at Creative Lab, Google, put it, “I’m not even a native Londoner, but I think nothing beats this epic film.” After watching the video (and rewatching it numerous times) I couldn’t agree more. If you’re not convinced after seeing it for yourself, here are a few more reasons why Nike’s Nothing Beats a Londoner ad deserves all the praise:
It makes you feel all the feels.
There are few advertisements out there that give me an emotional reaction like this. As you watch the short film, it takes you on a journey of wanting to rise above competition and adversity, and it’s shot with feelings of optimism and excitement. It’s a story that accurately captures and celebrates a young athlete’s view of living, training, and pursuing their passion in such a diverse city.
Plus, there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments peppered throughout. Even as a non-athlete, the sentiments resonated with me because every aspect of the ad is intended to feel deeply relatable and authentic.
From a film perspective, it’s an amazing piece of work.
The ad really steps away from the typical tropes of over-the-top big budget advertisements. Filmed on 16mm, it has empathy and grittiness combined with moments of self-deprecating humor. As others have mentioned, the visual aesthetic also calls to mind social media-style filters and memes (like the tears from comedian Michael Dapaah). And with the quick-cut, multi-sports style, each athlete and their sport shines on screen in a much more dynamic way without the piece feeling crowded or unloved.
It’s not your average advertisement.
The ad takes risks that could potentially ruffle feathers, but are pulled off with style and humor. For instance, there are allusions to Peckham’s edgy vibe carried off in the script with the deadpan quip, “What’s wrong with Peckham?” from local rapper Giggs. It also features kids verbally and literally sparring, but there’s an underlying sentiment that they are united as a community of London athletes – all determined in their sport and proud of their city, boroughs aside.
They’ve figured out how to use celebrities without relying on them to carry the story.
Just as other sports brands have started using visionary artists in their advertisements (think Adidas and Kanye West), Nike nailed it with featuring a rising generation of UK music personalities.
Throughout the film, we see artists like Skepta and AJ Tracey, as well as celebrity athletes like Mo Farah, Harry Kane, and Eden Hazard, who join 250+ amateur athletes showing off their skills in everything from ice hockey to boxing.
Though the celebrities definitely add to the excitement and humor in many ways, they are used with a light touch without over-the-top setups. I’m not going to pretend I can spot everyone involved here (in fact, I had to go back and look many of them up). But what makes this so successful is that the featured talent has credibility with the target audience – they’re their heroes and idols. Plus, their skills and merit are truly inspirational.
It taps into the city’s real culture and people.
When conceptualizing the story for the film, the creative directors noted that Nike is generally known as a top American brand with a rich commercial history. The decision to shoot on 16mm film instead of digital was intentional in order to really capture the texture of the city. This was a top priority if they were to truly represent the city and the people who call it home, and it really shows as the viewer journeys through the various boroughs of London.
But more than making the city a focal point, the 250+ local athletes in London really shine as the main characters of the story. The film begins with a young runner referring to cycling as “light work”, which sets off a series of one-upmanship and increasingly difficult athletic feats.
After tons of research and interviews with the local kids of London, the creatives at W+K saw an amazing, unbeatable attitude with the sort of confidence that you usually see in elite athletes. Overall, these kids really believe that they can do anything as they continue to fight the real-world erosion that can chip away at that kind of determination. The entire film from start to finish truly celebrates the young Londoners in a way we usually celebrate famous athletes, and it holds the kids up as the inspiration for the whole city.
All of this success really started with the initial casting decisions. Instead of casting actors, the creative directors wanted unique authenticity that only comes with choosing young athletes that were chosen for their sports ability and passion above anything else. Plus, they’re all locals.
From start to finish, it’s the people and city that make the ad successful and relatable. From the rowers fighting for first while their parents yell “failure”, to the runner sprinting for two miles through the city streets just to get to training, the ad creates this wonderful contrast of a tight-knit community of athletes while also promoting rivalries among individuals and neighborhoods that all want to be number one. In all of the competitiveness and one-upmanship, there are unifying characteristics that make the city unique, diverse, and just plain cool.