Nike’s newest ad campaign sparks discussion
Nike’s most recent advertising campaign, “Dream Crazier,” provides commentary on the advances made for women’s sport in recent decades, and more importantly seeks for more. Building off of their “Dream Crazy” ads from September 2018 featuring Colin Kaepernick, Nike continues to take a stand with notable athletes who receive criticism from the media for actions taken in their sports. For “Dream Crazier,” Serena Williams is the highlight as she narrates the powerful message and is featured at the end of the ad. While Kaepernick’s controversial action of kneeling during the national anthem is widely known among fans of the NFL, Serena Williams had also recently been criticized for taking a stand against a call made on the court in the 2018 US Open final. By featuring such widely discussed athletes in their ads, Nike has the opportunity to share a strong message behind their products and image which fortifies them as a brand who supports strong values.
“Dream Crazy” supports the notion for athletes to dream of their success and to work towards that goal relentlessly. Highlighting both men and women—some able-bodied and some with disabilities, the ad encourages each athlete to challenge what others believe they can accomplish and to rise above. Building off the message shared by Kaepernick in “Dream Crazy” Nike shines a light on women in sport specifically and shares their powerful message through the voice of Serena Williams. By focusing on the harsh realities women face in sport, the message of “Dream Crazier” seems to be even more powerful than that shared in “Dream Crazy.”
The video begins by addressing some of the hypocrisies women face in sport that men do not. These include: being criticized for showing emotion, for getting mad at a call made by the ref, for wanting to play against the boys, and finally having their femininity questioned if they’re too good. This final example was the case of Caster Semenya, the South African championship runner. After addressing the hypocrisy the video goes on to highlight some historical events of women breaking barriers in sport that have led to where women’s sport currently stands. The take-home message seems to encourage women to continue to dream crazier and to raise women’s sport upward, for despite all the great advances made that the video highlights, there is still much more to be done to improve women’s sport.
The fines laid towards Serena Williams during the controversial 2018 US Open are but one of several examples of sexist and inequality in women’s sport. It proves that there is much yet to be done. The most prominent two issues I see in women’s sport are the discrepancies in pay between men and women athletes and the sexism women face in terms of their treatment compared to men in a given sport. Firstly, a female athlete gets paid enormously less than a male athlete. In a 2017 article, Forbes found that, “the top ten highest-paid female athletes last year together earned a combined $105 million” and that each of the top three men, Floyd Mayweather, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo made over that amount in the same year. These major discrepancies are mostly due to differences in sponsorship dollars. That money is driven by ad revenue and viewership, which women’s sport severely lacks. In a 2015 article from the USC News, Andrew Good writes that “in 2014, [Sportsnet] affiliates devoted only 3.2 percent of airtime to women’s sports, down from 5 percent in 1989.” With data like this, it is no wonder that the revenue from women’s sport is nowhere near their male counterparts.
In terms of sexism, there are two examples that come to mind; criticism towards women’s outfits in tennis and beach volleyball as well as the difference in the rules of hockey for men and women. In the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, a pair of beach volleyball players from Egypt; Doaa Elghobashy and Nada Meawad broke barriers for Muslim athletes as they adorned their hijabs during competition on the world’s stage. Not only did these women wear hijabs, their outfits covered their whole body, save for hands and eyes. This differs drastically from the typical bikini-clad athletes from other countries. Whether worn by choice or otherwise, the bikini outfits worn by women’s beach volleyball players are undoubtedly sexual for the sake of appearance, not performance. As Elgobashy went on to say to the Associated Press according to Alexandra Sims who writes for Independent, “I have worn the hijab for 10 years. It doesn’t keep me away from the things I love to do, and beach volleyball is one of them.” Elgobashy’s statement is a reminder that the outfit does not make the athlete, and that women should have the choice to wear whichever outfit style they like regardless of any external pressures for them to look a certain way (in those sports that do have standardized protective equipment). Yet another example of a woman facing criticism due to her outfit occurred with Serena Williams’ when she returned to tennis after giving birth. She chose to wear a catsuit outfit, made in collaboration with Nike and inspired by the Oscar-winning movie Black Panther. The suit helped with blood circulation and the prevention of blood clots, which was a result of her recent childbirth, as told by Nicole Chavez for CNN. Not long after the match, the President of the French Tennis Federation implemented a dress code to the sport, despite allowing men to frequently remove their shirts in exchange for a clean one multiple times during a match. This is yet another example of unnecessary treatment of women from men who govern a sport.
Another similar dichotomy is in hockey, as for years, women’s hockey has been made to be non-contact compared to the celebrated physicality of men’s hockey. This decision seems to stem from the belief that women are somehow more fragile when compared to men, which is simply not true. While it is the case that men and women differ in size and strength physiologically, women are incredible athletes who excel in both non-contact and contact sports regardless of this difference. So why is it that the rules of a game must be changed to suit a different gender? When looking at the women’s sports teams on campus, arguably our most celebrated team is the X-Women Rugby team. Their consistent success over recent years has cemented our program as being one of the best in the country, in the very aggressive contact sport of rugby. It seems odd that for women’s hockey the rules are changed from their male counterparts simply due to gender and the belief that women may not be able to handle the physicality of contact hockey.
With such examples in mind and with the strong message shared by Nike, the question is how can women’s sport be improved and what must be done to get there? I believe that the main change that must be had is the exposure of women’s sport on the major sports broadcasts like TSN, Sportsnet, etc. The argument against increasing the media time of women’s sport is a simple one, the fact that viewership falters and ad revenue drops. The issue in this rebuttal though is that viewership will never increase if the coverage of women’s sport continues to be shown at a rate of 3.2 percent as discussed above. Because of this, girls likely don’t have the same kinds of role models in sports that boys do growing up, which may have strong implications on the levels of participation in sport for young girls. Having role models in sport that girls can relate to may inspire them to grow up and strive to be like the Serena Williams’ or Hayley Wickenheiser’s of the world just as boys look up to the Sydney Crosby’s and LeBron James’.
Nike’s “Dream Crazier” ad is but one of many steps forward that we must take to improve women’s sport. It is a journey that everyone involved in sport must take, from fans and players to coaches, advertisers, presidents and governing bodies. Improving women’s sport and eliminating the sexism and hypocrisy female athletes face will take many steps forward, and Nike’s ad may be the first step for some of us, as I know it is for myself. So, my question is this: are you prepared to dream crazier? I know I am.