Fashion is considered to be one of the most competitive industries. The biggest name brands are continually looking for new strategies to attract buyers to purchase their products. They create innovative advertisements that consist of bright colors, good music, and also use sex appeal as a technique which has often come out as totally disgusting and overly dramatic. Hardly will brands put up advertisements with actual meaning to it; where the concept driving the ad is to get consumers to think and not just hastily go for their product. Nike is one of the high-end brands that usually sells high-performance apparel and sponsors several sports teams across the world. Nike is a significant competitor in the market along with other brands and employs different marketing strategies in the market. September last year Nike featured an advert with the South African athlete Caster Semenya. The “Just do it” campaign, moved the masses using Semenya’s moving story not just to buy the product but also to buy the slogan. In this paper, I will show the use of ‘social perspective’ and other styles, in Nike’s advert featuring Caster Semenya.
The featuring of Caster Semenya in the campaign was purposed to reach different audiences. For athletes, these advertisements act as a motivation that pushes them to reach new and impossible heights. In the advertisement, Semenya is an athlete who pushes through dark times in her career and her perseverance and patience eventually pays off when she redeems herself. This motivates athletes to push through the rigorous work out routines and the challenging contests they will face in their careers. Nevertheless, the advertisement targets a wider audience and not just athletes. The other audiences who are not in the sports category see this campaign as a way of pushing through tHe hurdles in life. If these athletes can push through these awkward moments in their lives and still come out on top and be true to themselves, trainers, and families, then everyone can do so. Nike was the first brand to put up such adverts in the market. For this reason, the campaign was very effective. The main character telling her story invokes thoughts about how people go about handling the difficulties in life; creating a sense of strong pathos among the viewers. Caster Semenya is a celebrity athlete not only in Africa but the whole world, and to watch her uniquely narrate her story is more alluring rather than hearing a representative of the company talk about how products from Nike are a great choice; this gives more ethos behind the message of the advertisement.
Nike has been known to do controversial adverts especially in their 30th– anniversary campaign. From Colin Kaepernick to Serena Williams and Caster Semenya sportsmen and women who have faced discrimination at some point in their sportsmanship. Incorporating three key features to make it a good advert. Top-class athlete, top-class athletic brand and a controversial social statement which makes it noticeable. Hence a good advert.
During the entire video of the commercial, Semenya narrates her story, but she does not just tell her story instead she draws everything. Ethos is used in this advertisement effectively because Semenya gets to tell her story as she is the only one who could narrate the details accurately. The video is given a more relaxing environment by the clothing that Semenya is wearing. The way the video is set up does not seem to promote the brand but instead looks like Semenya is talking about her struggles and how she overcomes and will always overcome. For this reason, the advertisement manages to capture ethos uniquely. They manage to get a celebrity athlete to tell her personal experience and not someone else.
The first thing I noticed in this video was the prowess of the scriptwriter. The scriptwriter was direct to the point, and the script was short and interesting. Going the extent of using Semenya’s voice. In the campaign commercial, Semenya is seen winning races in her Nike gears. Footage of her youth when she was taking her first steps into a field she loved, although she was completely different from those who surrounded her. In the video, her voice over asks: “would it be easier for you if I was not so fast? Would it be simpler if I stopped winning? Would you be more comfortable if I was less proud? Would you prefer if I had not worked so hard, or just did not run? Or chose a different sport? Or stopped at my first steps? That is too bad because I was born to do this.” Showing and displaying his fighting spirit, which everyone wants her to conform. But her response is to hell with you! As the ad ends nicely with the words, “when you born to do it, just do it.” The writer even adopts a poetic flow for the words to stick in the viewer’s mind, that whatever you want “just do it.”
Going ahead and using social perspective in an advert is quite a risk as Nike takes the challenge and presents to the world the ‘man’ lady as a hero. When Semenya first appeared in an international race back in 2009 and won, everybody including everyone had the same question ringing in their mind. What the heck is a man doing in a women’s race? All physical features supported this null hypothesis: tall, masculine and a man’s face. After the championships, she was subjected to gender testing to clear everyone’s doubt. Later on 6th July 2010, she was cleared by the IAAF. Using such a figure in an advert can take both directions, considering its Africa!
First, there is that audience that will be motivated by her strong stand and unwavering courage. To be able to come out, not only in a South African stadium but on an international platform without fear of what the world will say or think. This category of an audience will buy the product to support the campaign. There is the second category of audience. The category that saw Semenya as a problem to the human race. Why should a man be hidden in the female gender? It was the question that was highlighted the whole of that week. Others saw it as not fair as the lady had a man’s strength that could not be matched to a woman’s strength. This category of an audience would not buy that product, as purchasing the product would tarnish their reputation among their peers who belong to the same group of the audience even if they love the product. Capturing social perspective in an advert goes dipper as it carries emotional attachment with it. Hence both parties are always in the extremes.
Another unique feature used in the ad is rewinding. Semenya’s journey is rewarded from winning gold to her first steps as a baby in slow-motion as her voice over is played. It is evident that using this feature; the filmmaker is taking the viewer back to the beginning when she had a choice to quit and engage in another career. Also trying to bring out the fact that nature always takes its course and it was not Semenya’s fault to have the natural formation of testosterone in her body. She had a life just like anyone else, and she had a choice to make. Either to accept herself and move on or deny herself and get stuck in an identity crisis. In the process of all these, the video is running in slow-motion, and the viewer’s subconscious is already registering the Nikes products as the conscious mind is busy being engaged in Semenya’s sad and moving story. The producer tries to win the viewer’s mind by engaging and informing him or her that whenever in crisis or situations where you have to make the right choice, Nike will always be your partner and all you have to do is “Just Do It.”
Another powerful tool the producer used in this video is the direct gaze induction technique. Semenya gaze at the camera shows her complete confidence with the product. In real life, eye gaze is a robust nonverbal communication cue, which demands attention, a request or expecting a response. This principle applies even on pictures and motion pictures. Making people who believe in Semenya believe the product and end up buying or using the product.
Any filmmaker can learn a lot of things from Nike’s advert featuring Semenya. First I discovered that being unique has its advantages and disadvantages. It is merely a risk, that can turn out to your favor or not. Something outstanding is that advertisers have stopped associating their products with people’s lifestyles or their intended purpose. They are now associating their products with social experiences, experienced by famous figures in the community. By this they play the sympathy card, winning not only the viewer’s wallet but also his emotions. Which propels him to sell the product by word of mouth, thinking that he is telling the sad story of the figure that was used. My question is, is it that the industry is changing? Or is it that the community is diversifying which is later reflected on adverts?
Nike. (2019). [online] Available at: https://www.nike.com/xf/en_gb/?ref=https%253A%252F%252Fwww.google.com%252F [Accessed 19 Mar. 2019].
Nike (2018). Nike-Just Do It.
Burgess, D., 2015. Online banner adverts: More than the final click. Journal of Student Research, 4(2), pp.94-104.
 Nike. (2019). [online] Available at: https://www.nike.com/xf/en_gb/?ref=https%253A%252F%252Fwww.google.com%252F [Accessed 19 Mar. 2019].
 Nike (2018). Nike-Just Do It.
 Burgess, D., 2015. Online banner adverts: More than the final click. Journal of Student Research, 4(2), pp.94-104.