With a Life Told in Reverse, Nike Once Again Powerfully Celebrates an Embattled Athlete

Runner Caster Semenya has been hounded by critics since age 18

The new spot from Nike and Wieden +Kennedy Amsterdam shows how Caster Semenya discovered her love of running. Nike
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An athlete plagued by controversy, nettled by league officials, enduring obstacles that many feel are put in place by systemic racism. It’s been an ongoing reality for Colin Kaepernick and, this week especially, a high-profile gauntlet for Serena Williams.

Now Nike—which has proudly stood behind both—brings you the tale of a third. And while the spot from Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam is a story all its own, it’s one that certainly highlights that Nike isn’t here to draft on the high profile of safe and pristine star athletes. Nike is here to get real.

The newest spot in the 30th anniversary of Just Do It tells a brief life story of Caster Semenya, the South African middle-distance runner who took gold at the 2016 Olympics. Her career, especially after a period of dramatic improvement on her personal bests, has been beset by scrutiny of her sex and testosterone levels since Semenya was 18 years old.

Instead of taking the traditional route of telling the life story in chronological order, W+K Amsterdam works its way backward from the present to Semenya’s infancy as she describes all the ways her haters wish she’d stayed out of the race.

Despite being subjected to repeated tests and subsequently being cleared to compete, Semenya has continued to be discredited by critics and some competitors, such as a British runner who, after losing to Semenya in 2016, said, “Everyone can see it’s two separate races so there’s nothing I can do.”

Semenya’s supporters have often noted a tone of discrimination in scrutiny of her performance. When athletic governing body IAAF announced new testosterone limits on female runners this April, South Africa’s ruling party called it a “blatant racist” policy reminiscent of apartheid. “The racial undertones of this cannot go unnoticed,” the African National Congress said in a statement. “The regulations are a painful reminder of our past where an unjust government specifically legislated laws for certain activists in society to stifle their fight against an unjust system.”

Nike’s spot reflects the questions, doubts and whisper campaigns that have dogged Semenya—but the ad also shows that none of it is going to stop her.

“That’s too bad,” she says of her dubious critics. “Because I was born to do this.”

Nike carries that thought forward, with the on-screen copy saying, “When you’re born to do it … Just Do It.”


Agency: Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam
Executive Creative Director: Eric Quennoy, Mark Bernath
Creative Director: Evgeny Primachenko, Hannah Smit, Craig Williams
Art Director: Teresa Montenegro
Copywriter Christopher Cryer
Head of Production Joe Togneri
Executive Producer: Broadcast Michael MacMillan
Broadcast Producer: Magda Czyz
Executive Producer, Art: Maud Klarenbeek
Art Producer: Kate Barrett, Stacey Prudden
Planning Director: Stephane Missier
Communications Planner Director: Hillary Heath
Group Account Director: Kathryn Addo
Account Director: Amber Martin
Account Manager Cassandre Beck, Molly Rugg
Head of Design: Joe Burrin
Studio Director: Lizzie Murray
Designer: Gustav von Platen
Studio Artist: Noa Redero
Project Manager: Loes Poot
Business Affairs: Fiona Fan

Production: Park Pictures
Director: AG Rojas
Director of Photography Rina Yang
Producer: Nick Goldsmith
Executive Producer: Stephen Brierley

Editing: Trim Editing
Editor: Dominic Leung
Editor Assistant Dave Davis
Producer: Tatyana Alexandra

Audio: Post Wave Studios
Sound Designers Ed Downham, Alex Nicholls-Lee

Artist: Cam Ballantyne
Title: Caster
Studio: Beatworms

Postproduction: Glassworks Amsterdam
VFX Supervisor / Lead compositor: Kyle Obley
Compositor: Jan van de Laar
On set VFX Supervisor: George Webster
Colourist Scott Harris
Executive Producer Anya Kruzmetra
Production Coordinator Salt Ibraeva

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