Thursday, September 14, 2006

Nike's Briscoe High Commercials

This weekend Nike and its advertising partner Wieden + Kennedy have put their Briscoe High commercials into heavy rotation, and after doing some research, I think people are underestimating the significance of the spots. Some blog comments, all sic:

- chopstewy- "its an actor....some kid...i think they're trying to relate that kid to just an average person, to get people to believe that if you wear their stuff, you can play as good as vick, urlacher, troy p., L.T., leinart, etc....i think its just to relate the consumer to the star to sell the product..."

- tunescribe- "Does anyone else find that ad bizarre? Having NFL players, Don Shula, Urban Meyer, etc., impersonating a high school team. Just seems like somebody's weird idea that belongs in the Twilight Zone or something."

- GJAJ15- "I saw it in ESPN Mag, did not understand it all... maybe I am missing something, but thought it was a very strange mix of personalities."

- PatsFanInVa- "Yeah, that is bizarre. I have seen it a couple of times. It's not like there's some kind of link through all those people, that it makes sense or something some way I dont understand? I mean, there's not really a Briscoe or a Briscoe High School I should know about, is there?"

Of course, as the Nike press release explains, the ad documents a fictional town consumed by high school football on the eve of a new season. On the surface, the commercial is funny because everyone in the town--Don Shula as the head coach, Steve Young as a paperboy, Deion Sanders as a dad--is part of our football universe, and fond we are of all of them. Quite literally, as the Futura typeface in the last frame states, "Football is Everything." But there is so much more to appreciate.

That same press release neglects to mention the name of the director, but whoever that is infuses the commercial with precise details to both ground the jocks while deifying them: the pencil behind Polamalu's ear, Vick's feet on the desk, Urlacher snapping a paper football. (Thank God Peyton's with Reebok, so we don't have to watch his shit-eating grin. In fact, I think he has a commercial for that too.)

Speech Communication major. No, seriously.

The music plays a key role too. The earlier "Two-a-Days" commercial was scored to Creation's "Making Time," which was adequate but nothing compared to Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky," which is the soundtrack to the "Gameday" spot. "Two-a-Days": "Gameday :: 1931 Scarface: 1983 Scarface: more ambitious, more poignant, gleefully less focused. Besides recalling the Main Street 1950s import with which the song's associated, the lyrics evoke traditional, core American values. With that in mind, the spots reach a new level. Make no mistake. These aren't those cheesy Bud Light campfire commercials from the '80s, in which the whole point was being able to go, "Hey! That's Dick Butkus!" Here, the football greats represent archetypes steeped in our own mythology. Within each person on the street is a hall-of-famer, and all of us are sitting in the back of Jimmy Johnson's history class, with the football players being front-and-center. (If I have one complaint about the clip, it's that Jimmy Johnson is cast as a history teacher in it. Where I come from, dude definitely would have paced a religion class.)

Hey! I'm your new Sacred Scriptures teacher. Open your books to page sixty-nine!"

Anyway, the tagline at the end of the commercial is incorrect. Football isn't everything; everything is football. Nike illustrates that football does not only surround us in the classroom and the practice field and the traditions with which we're all familiar. It is us. It represents our values and what makes us who we are. How's that for brand image?

And for that one person watching modern shoe commercials and saying, "They never even show what the sneaker looks like," get a life. Nike's been making the same cleat for twenty years. It's not like they're going to all of a sudden start putting mp3 players in them.

But then again, what do I know about TV? I like "DMX: Soul of a Man."


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