One Fell Swoosh: The Art of Selling Sports

Nike Inc. has generated some of the most recognizable pop-culture symbols and slogans of our generation, not to mention consistently moving and thought-provoking works in print and television media. What makes the multi-billion-dollar corporation especially intriguing is its alternate role as an inspiration and facilitator of art independently, through commissioned series, or by way of contests the world over.

This is the art of selling sports.


Directed by Mark Romanek. Agency: Weiden + Kennedy Portland, USA Premiere Date: December 2008. Music: "Candyman" by Cornershop Award: Clio 2009 Bronze

Although most of the shots are filled with crowds of people, there are really only two personalities at play in Chalk, Nike's 2008 homage to the pre-game ritual made famous by LeBron James. The black-and-white footage hops between James--the hero--and everyone else hanging on his every move: the fans. LeBron tosses his "magic dust" into the air, and the scene flips seamlessly: It's coming down in a locker room before a game, as sugar in a bakery, as talc in a barbershop. The message is as much about the hero as it is about the fans, and what it means to be inspired.

Wearable Works

Nike is forever trying out new color combinations, styles and designs. Every once in a while, the company releases something really wild for sneaker enthusiasts and collectors. The following series of limited-edition, custom-designed shoes takes the "fashion is art you wear" definition literally.

Creative Catalyst

In addition to commissioning local artists for shoe and ad design projects, the athletic giant offers a number of opportunities around the globe for artists to gain global exposure for their work through competition. The following images were featured in a contest held in Australia/New Zealand this past spring through a partnership with Foot Locker.

Nike Courage

Creative Director: Dan Wieden, Alberto Ponte, Jeff Williams Director: Ralf Schmerberg Agency: Weiden + Kennedy Portland, USA Premiere Date: 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics

It's hardly the most popular, and it never won any awards, but Nike Courage, set to The Killers "All These Things That I've Done" is our personal favorite. How they were able to represent the core values of athleticism (and life) in less than 60 seconds is astounding. Joaquin Hidalgo, vice president of Nike's global-brand marketing said the following of the ad: "[Courage] celebrates quite frankly what we felt is one of our most inspirational brand statements of all time -- 'Just Do It.' They are stories of triumph. Heartbreak. Passion. Power. These are moments defined not by victories or losses, but by heroism displayed."

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