Why did you start running? Gain fitness? Lose weight? Complete a race? In 2000, Nike launched their Why sport? ad campaign during the Summer Olympics. If you ever need another reason why you should grab your running shoes and head out that door, this might be it:

In a parody of horror films, Olympic runner Suzy Hamilton is running a bath in a remote wilderness cabin when a chainsaw-wielding masked killer appears. Hamilton is obviously in much better shape than the would be killer and, thanks to her Nike gear, sprints away. The final shot shows the killer out of breath, limping away and ends with the tagline, “Why Sport?” which is quickly answered with “You’ll live longer.”

First aired on the third night of the Olympics (Friday), the ad titled ‘Horror’ received so many complaints that NBC had pulled the ad by Sunday. The protesters argued that it made light of violence against women, while others claim it was just too scary to watch, especially for children who enjoy watching the Olympics. Nike spokespeople retorted it was meant to be humorous, and Hamilton herself stated the ad was inspirational, since it is the woman who defeats the man.

An example of Nike’s response to an email complaint:

Thank you for sharing with Nike your views on the new “Why Sport?” television ad titled “Horror”.

It has generated a very large and spirited viewer response, with consumers weighing in both positively and negatively. The intent of this ad was certainly not to offend or make light of violence, and if you have been offended by the ad, we sincerely apologize.

Our goal was to clearly parody classic cinematic moments, in this particular case the extremely popular “horror” movies, to show how the benefits of being physically fit can appear unexpectedly in unusual situations. In the case of Suzy Hamilton, the US Olympian who appears in “Horror,” she is the victor, not the victim. Many of our consumers have let us know they understand the ad and enjoyed it. Many others have let us know that they do not care for it at all.

The NBC networks have elected to discontinue airing this ad during the Olympic broadcasts.

Sincerely,
Nike USA Consumer Affairs

It is interesting to note that an ad in the same campaign titled ‘Gladiator‘ did not evoke the same response. In this ad a skateboarder in a crowded city street is confronted by a sword-wielding gladiator who repeatedly tries to kill the young man. As in the Hamilton commercial, however, the teenage boy repeatedly dodges and evades the gladiator’s murderous schemes and the ad ends with the “Why Sport? You’ll live longer.” line. Apparently there were no objections to this ad.

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