From the Streets of Athens to NBA MVP, Nike Celebrates Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Rise

Mt. Olympus provides the backdrop for W+K Amsterdam spot

A hoop at the top of Mt. Olympus celebrates the "Greek Freak."
Nike

When the Milwaukee Bucks picked a lanky point-forward from Greece with the 15th pick in the 2013 NBA draft, no one predicted Giannis Antetokounmpo’s eventual career. Then NBA commissioner David Stern took his time on the name, and NBA commentator Bill Simmons compared Antetokounmpo’s Greek competition in grainy YouTube videos to an “eighth grade CYO team.”

It turns out that the newest NBA MVP can make grown men look like eighth graders. Most players who win the MVP come into the league with loads of expectations. Not Giannis. In the draft video, ESPN reporter Fran Fraschilla said he probably shouldn’t be playing in an NBA game, at least not yet. Since 2013, Antetokounmpo has been climbing from being an intriguing prospect on a struggling Bucks team into the best player in the world.

That journey is what Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam hoped to capture in the new Nike ad honoring the Greek superstar’s achievements. Giannis Antetokounmpo: Mt. Olympus represents his rise from the streets of Athens to the highest point in Greece and fabled home of the Greek Gods.

The backboard reads: “Fate can start you at the bottom. Dreams can take you to the top.” That type of inspirational copy is the throughline of W+K’s decades-long, industry-defining relationship with Nike. Ultimately the spot itself is fairly simple. There are no actors needed, the ad has just two drone shots, and some title slides make up the entire 30-second clip.

But making that shot a reality took a lot of work. First, W+K had to design a unique basketball hoop that could withstand the volatile weather—without drilling into the sacred mountain. A team of workers had to navigate hail and wind to get the hoop into place while being nearly 10,000 feet above sea level.

The final part of the hoop’s design is Antetokounmpo’s new logo. The sharp angles of his initials use negative space to create a unique and powerful design befitting the MVP. That logo is paired with his new shoe—the “Air Zoom Freak 1”—which was released to Nike retailers on June 29th.

While this spot is flashy and symbolic of Antetokounmpo’s journey, W+K was also creating a campaign with more substance. “I Am Giannis” is a five-part series Nike published to YouTube. It covers his journey from selling baskets on the streets of Athens with his Mom to working out in a dimly lit weight room to settling into Milwaukee and getting his own signature shoe with Nike.

“I never thought I would have my own shoe. Never,” he says as the fifth episode fades to black. “But it was just hard work that paid off. If you believe in yourself, believe in your dreams, things like this can happen.” As the son of Nigerian immigrants who proved every doubter wrong, Giannis would certainly know.

CREDITS:

Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam

Executive Creative Directors: Eric Quennoy, Mark Bernath
Creative Directors: Craig Williams, Evgeny Primachenko
Art Director: Jeff Lam
Copywriters: Alex Bower, Tim Coleman
Head of Broadcast Production: Joe Togneri
Broadcast Producer: Eline de Roo
Group Account Director: Kathryn Addo
Account Director: Franky Wardell
Account Manager: Fulvio Itagiba
Head of Planning: Martin Weigel
Head of Comms & Digital Strategy: Danielle Pak
Head of Design: Joe Burrin
Studio Director: Lizzie Murray
Motion Designers: Gustav von Platen, Marco van der Vlag
Studio Artist: Noa Redero
Project Manager: Caroline Kosse
Business Affairs: Michael Graves

Production Company: Yard
Director: Quentin van den Bossche
Director of Photography: Tassos Fitros
Producers: George Tsitsas, Eleni Grigoraskou
Executive Producer: Dimitris Alexopoulos

Editor: Hiro Ikematsu

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