Nike Tells Greek Athletes to ‘Just Do It’ Amid Crumbling Ruins of Country’s Olympic Venues

Sporting message of defiance during the financial crisis

Nike is weighing in on the Greek economic crisis with a haunting new ad featuring four competitive athletes from the debt-stricken country. 

It's a visually arresting piece, set in desolate venues from the 2004 Athens Olympics—expensive projects that have fallen into disrepair, becoming symbols of short-sighted government overspending in the years leading up to the nation's current predicament. 

In the ad, swimmer Eleni Hatzimitrou, Paralympic runner Michalis Seitis, NBA player Giannis Antetokounmpo and pole vaulter Nikoleta Kyriakopulou prepare to ply their craft. A voiceover, delivered in Greek, spits defiance as the tension builds. 

"We will not be defined by circumstance," read the English captions. "We will not be undone by what is broken. We are more than our surroundings. We are the makers of our fate."

The athletes take off as lightning crackles in the background and war drums beat with enough drama for a high-budget Hollywood movie based on an ancient Greek myth. 

Nike's classic tagline, "Just do it," follows as Antetokounmpo lands after a crushing dunk. 

The company's Greek marketing department created the ad with Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam, hoping to inspire the country's athletes, amateur and professional alike. Its goal also includes showing "young people how sport can motivate them to improve their everyday lives, and help them to beat the odds and take ownership of their future," the brand says. 

That's an admirable purpose. Greek youth were hit particularly hard by dire fiscal straits, with almost 52 percent of 15- to 24-year-olds out of work—double the overall unemployment rate of 24.4 percent.

It's nice that the sportswear maker wants to send a positive, empowering message. Whether it oversimplifies the complexity of Greece's current problems is another question. Nike avoids explicitly mentioning the financial crisis and its unpleasant byproducts—in essence arguing they shouldn't matter. But the allusions (and implications) seem clear enough.

With ongoing bailout negotiations tangled up in the politics of the IMF, the European Union and its member nations—and domestic anger over the brutal effects of government cuts tied to earlier bailouts—the situation is not one in which bootstrapping (or playing professional sports) seems like a workable solution for millions of people who need to make a living. 

That, coupled with the fact that the ad's ultimate purpose is to sell shoes, swimsuits and the like, makes its timeless and direct tagline ring unusually awkward, even if the ad is a fittingly epic homage to Greek athletic history—and Nike's own namesake, the goddess of victory.

CREDITS
Client: Nike

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam
Executive Creative Director: Mark Bernath, Eric Quennoy
Creative Director: David Smith & Craig Williams
Art Director: John Filipe
Copywriter: Bern Hunter 
Head of Broadcast Production: Joe Togneri
Broadcast Producer: Stijn Wikkerink
Communications Planner: Josh Chang
Planner: Stephane Missier
Group Account Director: Kathryn Addo
Account Director: Amber Martin
Account Manager: Luke Purdy
Studio Artist: Cindy Kouwenoord
Project Manager: Janna Harrington, Loes Poot
Business Affairs: Niels Hagels

Director: John Filipe (Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam)
Editor: Robin Pijpers  (Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam)
Producer: Stijn Wikkerink (Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam)

Production Company: Stefi&Lynx Productions
Director of Photography: Leandro Ferrão
Executive Producer: Fay Katsari

Sound Designer/Mixer: Rens Pluym / Joep Meijburg

Music: Artist / Title: Sanjiv SEN / Makers of Fate
Music Company: SCHMOOZE

Postproduction: Ambassadors
Flame: Bas Moonen
VFX: Stephen Pepper, Bas Moonen
Telecine: Brian Krijgsman
Producer: Wiarda Postma, Daphne Litjens