“A simple idea but one with a vast amount of toil hidden under the surface,” describes director Oscar Hudson of his internet-breaking new ad for Nike. The latest film in the brand’s ongoing You Can’t Stop Us campaign sees archival sports footage paired perfectly alongside new footage in a split-screen format, in 36 sequences each showing two athletes seamlessly behaving as if part of a single shot. Created by Wieden+Kennedy Portland, the 90-second film combines 72 clips, with new footage meticulously made to match the pre-existing footage and therefore largely achieved in-camera.
The project involved the Wieden+Kennedy research team working closely with content sourcing agency Stalkr to gather clips that the production team could ultimately mirror, combing through 4000 piece of footage over many months. Then the crew had only five days to film, in various locations, using painstaking research into camera positioning in each sport in order to mimic the angles and compositions. They also used a custom-made camera frame that helped them emulate the original shot as closely as possible. Lighting and grading was also considered carefully, to help create an aesthetic that aligned visually with the original.
The final ad features 53 athletes across 24 sports, moving in tandem; among them Serena Williams, LeBron James, Cristiano Ronaldo and Naomi Osaka. The ad debuts to coincide with the NBA’s return, and carries a message of sport overcoming adversity – showing clips relating to the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. It is narrated by American soccer player Megan Rapinoe, who says in a statement: “Players may be back on the pitch, but we are not going back to an old normal. We need to continue to reimagine this world and make it better.”
Hudson worked with editors Peter Wiedensmith and Jessica Baclesse, as well as DOP Logan Triplett, production designer Adam Wilson, producer Dennis Beier and VFX studio A52 to create the impressive final film.
He added in his Instagram post about the project: “Love to our production team who spent days doing the extremely strange and counterintuitive task of shooting ultra prescriptive half-frames to perfectly match random moments of sports coverage. Shoulda been maddening but was actually tons of fun.”
Hudson has been nominated for this year’s Emmys in the Outstanding Commercial category, for his Apple AirPod spot Bounce for TBWA\Media Arts Lab. The ad sees a commuter’s walk to work transformed into an adventure when every surface he jumps on or falls into turns into a trampoline.
Nike also recently worked with the Tokyo arm of W+K on another film for the You Can’t Stop Us campaign, starring gold medallist speed skater Shim Suk-hee skating through a giant tunnel on the ice. Read more about the process in our interview with directors Crowns & Owl.