Only Runners Can Save the World in Nike’s Star-Studded Spin on Disaster Movies

And for once, everyone should listen to Kevin Hart

Bill Nye brings his science and shorts to the equation in Nike's new spot. Nike
Headshot of David Griner

A world in peril. (Ominous whoommm.) A planetary crisis without precedent. (Fade to black.) And the only way out … is to run.

That’s the pitch for Nike’s two-minute homage to disaster movies, with the athletic brand visualizing what would happen if the Earth stopped spinning on its axis.

The real answer is that we’d all be quickly killed by 1,000-mile-per-hour winds as the planet’s momentum created a vortex of murder. But Nike’s version is much less apocalyptic, despite getting the catchy name “Stopocalypse.”

Portland, Ore., independent agency Must Be Something and famed director Edgar Wright created the tongue-in-cheek epic, which includes cameos from a litany of athletes and celebs including Kobe Bryant (taking a page out of the Dwayne Johnson playbook), Kevin Hart, Bill Nye, Sadie Sink (Stranger Things’ “Mad Max”), Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, Odell Beckham Jr., Simone Biles and more.

We spoke to Must Be Something creative director Jed Alger to get more background on the spot and answer the real questions, like how this compares to the science of the 1978 Hollywood classic Superman.

Adweek: How did this campaign come about, and how did Must Be Something get involved?
Alger: Nike came to us with a really simple brief: The world sometimes feels stuck in a rut, but we believe the power of sport and running can help us all get moving again. The idea was right there.

What do you hope viewers take away from this spot? Nike’s messaging is often about individual empowerment, but this seems to have a “We’re all in this together” vibe.
Basically, it’s nothing we don’t already know in our hearts. You do nothing, nothing happens. But if you just act, things can change. And if you act as big group, big things can change. Also, everything feels just a little better when you get out and go for a run.

"You do nothing, nothing happens. But if you just act, things can change. And if you act as big group, big things can change."
Jed Alger, creative director, Must Be Something

How did you select the celebrities for this spot? What was their reaction to the concept?
Nike has such great relationships with so many amazing athletes, which include the most elite athletes but also actors and even scientists with a passion for sport. We were excited to work with such a broad group of athletes representing so many different sports and countries—from Ge Manqi, a Chinese sprinter, to PSG’s Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe. With the focus of the film being on running, we wanted to illustrate the world’s best runners, but also show how accessible the sport really is. You don’t need a team or a court or a bunch of equipment—you can just lace up and go!

Universally, the athletes and actors understood the idea instantly and were excited to take part in something that felt relevant but also really fun.

Sorry to science you, but Superman proved that running the Earth backward would reverse time. How did Bill Nye not school you on this before filming?
That’s a complex question. We did look back to Superman as we worked through the mechanics of this problem. He went right to left around the world to turn it backwards. But he was flying, whereas a runner going left to right will send the world backwards. But your question is really about the time reversal. Since the Earth only gets spinning the wrong way for a few moments, we felt the time disruption would be minimal. But it does explain why our runners are so eager to get back at it and set things right.

Below, see a digital ad that rolled out concurrently: 

Client: Nike
Agency: Must Be Something
Creative Director/Copywriter: Jed Alger
Creative Director/Art Director: Marty Grasser
Producers: Kevin Diller, Derek Ruddy, Sarah Barkley Porter, Jennifer Kramer, Frank Brooks
Account Director: Andrew Schafer
Account Manager: Hanna Nesper Newell
Creative Consultant: Tony Hellberg
Business Management: Cindy Lewellen
Production Company: Anonymous Content
Director: Edgar Wright
Director of Photography: Ken Seng
Executive Producer: Lori Stonebraker
Producer: Lisa Cowan
Production Supervisor: Jewel K. Estephanos
Production Supervisor: Lisa Judice
Production Designer: Ethan Tobman
Costume Design: Skye Stewart-Short
Postproduction: The Mill/Rock Paper Scissors
VFX Supervisor: Glynn Tebutt (The Mill)
Senior VFX Producer: Erin Hicke (The Mill)
Offline Editor: Biff Butler (Rock/Paper/Scissors)
Offline Editor (asst.): Alyssa Oh (Rock/Paper/Scissors)
Offline Editor (asst.): Lauren Dellara (Rock/Paper/Scissors)
Executive Producer: Raná Martin (Rock/Paper/Scissors)
Producer: Shada Shariatzadeh (Rock/Paper/Scissors)
Producer: Denice Hutton (Rock/Paper/Scissors)
Sound Design: Adrian Aurelius (Ballad)
Music: “Ganges a Go-Go” by Dan The Automator
Music Supervision: Sara Matarazzo (Walker)
Composer/remixer: Morgan Z. Whirledge

Don't miss the Brandweek Sports Marketing Summit and Upfronts, a live virtual experience Nov. 16-19. Gain insights from leading sports figures on how they navigated a year of upsets and transformation and what's in store for the coming year. Register

@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."