Nike’s Striking Ad With Rex Tso, the Unbeaten Hong Kong Boxer, Isn’t About Winning

Michael Mann directs W+K Shanghai spot

Some of our favorite sports ads aren’t so much about winning as gritting your teeth against adversity. Nike has always been especially talented at driving this point home.

Renowned Hong Kong boxer Rex Tso appeared in one such ad—ironically just before notching his 22nd win in an Oct. 7 fight. In it, Tso is violently knocked down in the ring as a referee stands over him, counting down toward a K.O.

This heart-stopping moment for Tso is juxtaposted with other local athletes, including high jump champion Cecilia Yeung, faced with debilitating discouragement in arenas of their own.

Directed by Michael Mann and creatively led by Wieden + Kennedy Shanghai, the spot ends with each athlete finding the wherewithal to keep going (to rousing success!), and the tagline, “You can’t guarantee a win, but you can guarantee a fight.”

“Hong Kong has been through a lot recently, and I feel deeply for my hometown,” says W+K Shanghai ECD Vivian Yong. “In this film, we envision the city as a group of athletes suffering setbacks and self-doubt, who believe the only way to make a comeback is to give it everything you’ve got, regardless of the outcome.”

Rex Tso is a professional boxer who won the golden belt during WBC-ABCO in 2012. His record remains untarnished by failure, and media entities have dubbed him The Wonder Kid.

In December 2016, he ranked first in super-flyweight boxing—making him the first Hong Kong boxer to ever hit the top of the list. A position like that is precarious—just ask Manny Pacquiao. Every win is followed by another fight, and you can’t stay on top forever.

Nike sidesteps the inevitable end of Tso’s reign by not glorifying him as an icon. Instead, it preemptively underlines what he shares with us, athletes or not: Sometimes life throws punches. (Some of us would be grateful for a mouthguard.) The glory isn’t in guaranteeing a win; it’s in guaranteeing a fight.

Asked what the film meant to him, Tso expressed gratitude that Hong Kong athletes are finally seeing recognition outside their home base. “I am touched and honored to be featured in it,” he says, “and hope I’ll be able to inspire other athletes to push boundaries they never thought possible.”

The :90 film was supported by out-of-home executions throughout Hong Kong. Some gloriously dramatic images of them appear below.

CREDITS

Client: Nike

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy Shanghai
Executive Creative Director: Ian Toombs, Vivian Yong
Creative Director: Terence Leong
Senior Art Director: Justin Phang
Senior Copywriter: Liu Wei
Head of Integrated Production: Sanne Drogtrop
Executive Producer: Bernice Wong
Art Producer: Angela Liu
Editor: Leon Yan
Senior Planner: Leon Lin
Business Director: Dino Xu
Associate Account Director: Jim Zhou
Senior Account Executive: Xueer Ren
Head of Project Management: Nicole Bee
Project Manager: Olivia Yuan
Business Affairs: Jessica Deng, Kathy Zhan
Head of Designers: Fish Ho
Designer: John Yao, He Fan
Production Manager: Vic Zhang
Digital Imaging Artist: Changqing Lee
FA Artist: Austin Hu
Marketing Director: Jessica Sinn
PR Manager: Evelyn Hsu

—Print

Production Company: Bloc Productions
Photographer: Paul Calver
Stylist: Athena Wang
Executive Producer: Fran Lam
Producer: Mandy Wu

—Film
Production Company: RSA
Director: Michael Mann
President RSA Films: Jules Daly
Executive producer: Marjie Abrahams
Producer: David Mitchell
DOP: Anthony Poon
Camera Operator: Roberto De Angelis

Production Company: RSA Asia
Managing Director: John Payne
Executive Producer: Marco Leung

Music Composer
Nick Britell

Editorial: Lost Planet
Editor: Hank Corwin
Executive Producer: Gary Ward
Assistant Editor: Jason Hinkley, Juliana Rodzinski
Producers: Tim Kirkpatrick, Evan Cunningham

Mixer/Sound Design: Charlie Keating

Color: Company 3
Colorist: Stefan Sonnenfeld

VFX: Jane Studios VFX
Creative Director: David Parker
Executive Producer: Nancy Hwang
Lead Flame Artist: Tim Bird
Flame Artist: Jameson DeSantis
VFX Producer: David Won

Quickstrike
Photographer: Lampson Yip