Chalkbot’s saga, from metalcore to Grand Prix

By Brian Morrissey


There's an interesting backstory to how the Nike Livestrong "Chalkbot" came to be. In short, it wouldn't have happened without punk music. In the '90s, Wieden + Kennedy art director Adam Heathcott was in a band called To Dream of Autumn. The band happened to briefly tour with a metalcore band called Creation Is Crucifixion. That band's lead singer, Nathan Martin, ended up starting Deeplocal, the hobbyist-tech firm that Heathcott and Wieden tapped to bring Chalkbot to life. While it basks in the glory of the Cyber Grand Prix now, the campaign was fraught with technical and logistical challenges. For one, the machine couldn't print very sophisticated script. The messages also had to be brief. Martin's team needed to find a substance to spray on the streets that would keep its integrity but easily wash off. Their search even led to conversations with Crayola. The real fun began at the Tour de France itself, where one of the 48 nozzles broke. Then the team on the ground needed to work with a Nike event marketing company to get permission to go ahead of the bikers and chalk messages. Sometimes they got it, sometimes they didn't. In one instance, the team kept chalking without the OK, making some French officials quite unhappy. Then there was the deranged Lance Armstrong hater who tried to run the Chalkbot off the road. Check out this campaign profile for the full story on Chalkbot.