Today is Nike’s Air Max Day, celebrating the Hatfield-designed, Pompidou-inspired shoe that launched the run revolution.
Wieden+Kennedy created a spot for the Air Max line which aired March 26, 1987, during the Cosby Show. The ad, which was shot in black-and-white on a Super 8 handheld camera, featured shots of professional and “everyday” athletes, all set to the tune of “Revolution” by The Beatles.
The story of the use of that song in the ad (although it was actually Apple Records that sued, not the Beatles, who supported the use of the piece, nor the rights holders, from whom it was purchased legally). Hell, they might sue us if we link to it here, so go Google it and come back to this post.
It was a revolutionary ad for a revolutionary shoe, and we celebrate its legacy to this day.
A big part of advertising is leaving things on the cutting room floor. In the long run, you learn to justify the decision, live with it, or come to realize it was for the best.
Much of “The Baddest,” a Nike campaign in support of Kevin Durant’s seventh signature shoe, was shot in Memphis, Tennessee this past April. It only made sense to bring the music of that city into the mix. After all, nothing says bad like decades worth of Southern Soul, especially when so many of the musicians who helped create that sound are still working musicians in that city.
We made a pilgrimage to Royal Studios to cut a track with the legendary Hi Rhythm Section. We brought in Brooklyn-based vocalist Lee Fields to carry the lead on a song written for the campaign by William Bungeroth and Julie Nichols, arranged and stylized by Chicago’s J.C. Brooks and the Uptown Sound. That song—called “The Baddest”—was about the exact quality that makes Durant such a great basketball player and the musicians on the session such battled-tested pros.
We got to hang out at the studios, totally incognito, while the Hi Rhythm Section cut their demo of the track. And then we made another trip back for session with Fields, so we could film the proceedings and use bits of it in the spot. When we shipped in June, the spot had none of the footage and not a single second of music recorded at Royal.
The chance to record at Royal was life-affirming, life-altering, and everything in between. Although it didn’t work in the edit, we found a way you can hear it so that experience—and the music—don’t go to waste.
Written by William Bungeroth and Julie Nichols
Arrangement by J.C. Brooks and the Uptown Sound
Performed by Lee Fields
Performed by Hi Rhythm Section
Twenty five years ago this month, the first Nike “Just Do It” commercial, featuring 80-year-old Walt Stack, aired on television. Watch the ad and listen to Dan Wieden on the origin and inception of the famous phrase.
When W+K digital strategist Dan Viens challenges you to a race, you accept – even though you know you’re going to lose (you really don’t want to mess with Dan Viens)…and even if you’re television talk show host Jimmy Fallon. Continue reading →