It’s been 17 years since Nike and W+K’s stirring “If You Let Me Play” campaign first put the spotlight firmly on young female athletes. And, almost two decades since its debut, there’s still something about hearing little girls recite facts like “If you let me play sports, I’ll be more likely to leave a man who beats me,” that can cut to the emotional core of viewers. Utilizing what would become a much-copied, shocking yet simple style of delivering statistics, “If You Let Me Play” is a standout among a brand-agency partnership that consistently turns out innovative work. And, while other spots came close (W+K’s Maria Sharapova-starring “Pretty” spot from 2006, for one), none would have the impact “If You Let Me Play” still has on female athletes.
Saturday marked the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the groundbreaking piece of legislation that established gender equality in educational programs that receive Federal funding. Since going into effect, Title IX is most often used to apply to school athletic programs, used to ensure that girls get as many opportunities to play sports as their male counterparts. In “Voices,” Nike and W+K celebrate this anniversary in a TV spot that immediately brings to mind “If You Let Me Play.” Shot by Mark Romanek, one of our favorite commercial, film and music video directors who’s no stranger to Nike, “Voices” features marathoner Joan Benoit Samuelson, boxer Marlen Esparaza and basketball stars Lisa Leslie and Diana Taurasi directly addressing the viewer about their own experiences with gender discrimination.
While it isn’t on par with “If You Let Me Play,” “Voices” does serve as strong rallying point for both female and male athletes, especially with the Summer Olympics just over a month away. The campaign will also feature a #MAKETHERULES hashtag on Twitter tomorrow for those in the social media realm that would like to spread the word.