Wieden Showcases Human Side of Runners

NEW YORK Each of four television spots for Nike, which broke on Tuesday, features a runner telling his or her unique story about the sport.

Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Ore., crafted the commercials, which complement the Nike cinema spot “Speed Chain,” which broke late last month. That execution, directed by David Fincher (Fight Club), showed a chain of speed, from a jellyfish, to a horse, to a motorcycle, to a train, all going at top speed, and introduced the line, “There’s more fast out there.” The TV ads have a smaller, more human scale.

“The subject was speed,” said agency art director Monica Taylor about the campaign. “We talk about speed in a big, anthemic way in the cinema ad, but we wanted the story we tell on TV to get really emotional and personal with the athletes.”

Thus, the ads, directed by Errol Morris, show three athletes and one actor telling their stories, to the camera and by voiceover, about running and speed. Bernard Lagat, a Kenyan runner, talks about doctors studying him because he is so fast. Kathryn Martin, U.S. masters record holder, wonders if at 51, she can break her 5:08 mile time. Marla Runyan, 5000-meter national champion, tells how it feels to run being legally blind. And 15-year-old Myzel Robinson, acting in his first commercial, challenges everyone from Lance Armstrong to “your aunties” to race him.

Personnel on the campaign, which aside from Taylor included executive creative director Dan Wieden, creative directors Hal Curtis and Mike Byrne, and copywriter Dylan Lee, shot the four ads over two days in Southern California.

Morris’ trademark interviewing style drew out the runners’ characters, according to Taylor. “We went in with scripts, but we also went in with the plan to let Errol interview athletes,” Taylor said. While Runyan’s script was originally about finishing fourth in the Boston marathon, for example, she talked to Morris about her running experiences. “It was just wonderful to listen to,” Taylor said. “That’s the story that’s in the finished spot.”