The sentiment of Nike's most recent campaign, "Unlimited You," is exactly what you’d expect from a sport brand. Its aspirational message of achievement through hard work and belief in one's 'unlimited' possibilities follows the conventional playbook of the category to a tee. In the brand's own words, "Unlimited means never defining oneself by what came before. It means defying expectations, even one's own. Unlimited declares that there is no 'happily ever after' and there's no 'too far.' There's only 'What's next?’"
Inspiring, yes - but haven't we heard it all before? Isn't this 'push harder, reach higher, go beyond' mantra the same motivational messaging that every brand in the sportswear category touts ad nauseum? Maybe so, but in its execution, Nike shows us how this 'Unlimited' campaign truly undermines expectations in a refreshingly surprising way.
With a tongue-in-cheek tone, the advert begins with normal people being encouraged by their future potential. It then takes a hyperactive turn when a gymnast doing his ring routine shouts “Hey, I’m not done.” He then takes an extraordinary jump and smashes through the JUST DO IT logo. The striking moment signals a literally break from the category's norms of determined athletes, dripping with sweat. Instead we get a hyperbolic frenzy that hilariously takes brand's ethos to extreme proportions.
Whilst the 'Unlimited' campaign breaks the category rules, the real achievement is how the spot still sends a powerful and inspirational message that fits with the brand's philosophy and purpose. Nike’s Global corporate Communications Director Brian Strong said, “The end is really just the beginning for someone who’s looking to go beyond their limits, and that’s what that shattering logo represents.”
Nike is the category leader for many reasons, one of which is their ability to deftly respond to the ever-changing attitudes of the consumer and, in result, define what it means to be a sports brand. The brand has found a new way to tell its story in a way that resonates and appeals to normal people as well as athletes. This keeps it fresh and relevant whilst staying true to their mission statement: “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world.” And according to Nike’s co-founder Bill Bowerman said, "If you have a body, you are an athlete."