W+K Explains What Unites Its Powerful Nike Women Ads Running in Russia, Turkey and the Middle East

Inside the local-global strategy

Some weeks ago, we saw Nike release a number of local-market spots for women, in what we suspected was a push to convey a larger, global message. We interviewed women from each market to help translate the ads, and share what they meant to them.

Just in time for International Women’s Day, Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam—which created them—had the Russia, Middle East and Turkey ads subtitled in English. The agency also revealed they are indeed part of bigger campaign, with the tagline, “Believe in More.”

This generation is the least active ever, with girls even less so than boys, per a press release. These ads were made simultaneously, with one goal—to inspire women to get active, regardless of obstacles and barriers.

They also coincide with news that Nike is launching a Pro Hijab line for veiled Muslim women, which goes on sale in spring 2018.

For more on this hyperlocal approach, we spoke with W+K Amsterdam group account director Kathryn Addo and planning director Stephane Missier, both on the Nike account. That conversation is below. We’ve also embedded the “Believe in More” ads with their spankin’ new English captions.

Russia: “What Are Girls Made Of?”

AdFreak: Who did you want to address, and why?
Kathryn Addo: In Russia, Turkey and the Middle East, women face a range of sport barriers. Between gender discrimination, living up to cultural traditions and societal expectations, sport is considered more of a distraction than anything.

Finding a dedicated space to work out is difficult, school takes priority over everything, and parents don’t believe there is a benefit to doing sport. And the list goes on. Now throw in environmental factors like the chaos of the city of Istanbul, the heat of a 95-degree Dubai summer, or the -20-degree winter in Moscow, and sport may seem like a daunting task.

Despite these challenges, there are still plenty of women achieving significant athletic milestones. These are the women we wanted to celebrate, and by doing so, embolden a new generation of young women to shift the way people see sport for women in these markets.

Why these particular markets?
Stephane Missier: In Turkey, the political climate is an ever-present reminder of traditional gender roles. Imagine being a woman in a country where the president has very traditional views on how a woman should behave.

One week before we arrived in Istanbul for research, a girl was attacked on the bus because she was wearing shorts. When we asked women about it, they explained this is normal, it’s just their reality. And when asked if they feel safe running or working out in the streets, they answered “No, it’s just not safe to be a woman in general.”

Russia still has very traditional notions of what it means to be a woman. They are expected to be many things and act in certain ways. Traditional expectations still linger, and girls are caught between the old and the new. A couple of weeks ago, Putin signed a new law decriminalizing domestic violence.

In the Middle East, Nike was planning to launch the Nike Pro Hijab. It was the perfect moment to inspire girls of the region to overcome the many barriers they are facing and start their sports journey.

Given this context, we wanted to make a powerful statement.

The Middle East: “What Will They Say About You?”

Why was the Amsterdam team chosen for this task?
KA: Working on a single brief across three wildly different markets with nuanced cultural sensitivities is exactly the kind of challenge W+K Amsterdam is perfectly positioned for.

With people not only from the three markets in Nike’s brief, but over 25 nationalities, we’re instinctively attuned to understanding a large range of diverse cultures and contexts, and we channel that instinct and curiosity into our strategic and creative processes. This cultural diversity allows us to produce impactful local market work and bring fresh ideas to the table that challenge and respect traditions.

How did you make them, and did you learn anything unexpected?
KA: As part of the research process, we talked to more than 90 women in three countries and two continents. Each had amazing stories to share, and each encounter reminded us that incredible things can happen when the power of sport meets women’s courage and inner strength.

How does “Believe in More” differ from Nike’s previous efforts to target women?
KA: Nike has in the past tackled the insecurities women face when it comes to doing sport, but in our markets, we discovered different insecurities—in the form of societal expectations, gender discrimination and community pressures.

The barriers we found became the foundation for the work, in each case flipping stereotypes and preconceptions.

"You need a role model? Fuck it. You can play the role."
Nike's female Russian boxers on role models

What would you say to women who feel the ads are talking to an upscale market and not all women?
KA: We wanted to encourage all women. This is the reason the work features women at all stages of the sports journey, from beginners to everyday athletes, right through to professionals. We feel like we struck a nice balance.

What would you call this strategy, and what can we expect as the year progresses?
SM: These campaigns are based on hyperlocal strategies rooted in powerful local insights. These three campaigns had a significant impact in their respective markets, starting debates around women in sports.

We want keep the momentum with local events and activations, giving women tangible ways to participate.

Earlier this year, Nike also released “Equality.” Do these ads share its goals? 
SM: Nike’s at its best when the brand tackles societal issues and takes a stance. We are proud to work for a brand whose ambition is to impact culture and inspire athletes around the world, no matter where they live and what their immediate context may be.

Any cool stories from production?
SM: In Russia, we met a group of boxers who were timid on the surface—but when asked about their goals, they lit up with passion and fire. When asked about their role models and personal mantras, they answered with phrases like, “You need a role model? Fuck it. You can play the role.”

And an athlete featured in our Middle East film wouldn’t tell her family she was to appear in a Nike commercial for fear of disapproval. This anecdote crystallized the tension and the insight.

What do you hope to achieve?
KA: Ultimately, our ambition was to celebrate women’s achievements against all odds. And hopefully to take a step towards leveling the playing field in sports.

Turkey: “This Is Us”

The ads are being broadcast in each market, supported by print, out-of-home, social and digital, influencer activities and live events. For more on each, review our original writeup, which also includes “Do You Believe in More?” featuring FKA twigs.

Naturally, that one is already in English.