Just Do It. The now 30-year old Nike campaign has become synonymous with the sneakers brand. Its mantra may be tied to an athletic sensibility but it’s endured because it embodies a larger idea. As an imperative — don’t think, just do it — the slogan taps into the kind of person we all want to be. It explains why Nike signed up Colin Kaepernick to be the face of the “Just Do It” 30th anniversary campaign. The tagline for the former NFL quarterback who gained notoriety by being the first NFL athlete to kneel during the anthem so as to protest police brutality “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything” reads like an updated version of the classic Nike ad.
Similarly, a new Mexican Nike ad is looking to leverage the athletic motto into a 21st century woke anthem. The “Juntas Inseparables – Just Do It” ad aims to offer young women all across Mexico (and arguably Latin America and beyond) the chance to see a feminist spin on the iconic sneakers mantra. The video commercial is set during an interminable traffic jam in Mexico City. As annoyed Chilangos of all stripes sulk in their cars, Olympic athlete Paola Morán is seen running around slowly amassing a throng of women in Nike gear around her that eventually get to the root of the problem and find a way to keep moving forward.
The uplifting ad also includes soccer player Nayeli Rangel, gymnast Alexa Moreno, basketball player Casandra Ascencio and boxer Mariana Juárez, all of whom get to showcase their sporting skills as they weave their way through all the parked cars in their way — and battle everyday sexism while they’re at it. A young girl flees her domineering mother who was intent on taming her hairstyle. A basketball is thrown at a guy’s food plate after he wolf-whistles at the running athletes. A group of men cordoning off blocked traffic are no match for Juárez’s right hook.
Vibrant, colorful, and dynamic as the kind of sports-themed ads you see during the World Cup or the Olympics, the CDMX-set short video not only puts female athletes front and center but it puts their femininity in tandem with their athletic skills. Girls run with pink sneakers while wearing orange skirts, score goals while rocking a teal blazer, and showcase their flexibility while donning a floral pair of tights. With the call to arms, “¡Vamos!” the ad hopes to inspire girls all around to embrace the message that, like anyone else, they should just do it.
This being 2018, the highly-watchable ad is bound to stir up long-running conversations about the role of activism within multibillion dollar corporate campaigns. Like the choice to put Kaepernick front and center in its anniversary ads, the decision to create a feminist message within a marketing ploy to sell athletic wares calls into question just how progressive capitalist-driven advertising can ultimately be. After all, for a global company that still struggles to convince consumers that its products are not being crafted in poorly run and worker-unfriendly sweatshops (just last year students around the world protested what they saw as the company’s continued indifference towards working conditions in many of their factories), these attempts at activist-driven campaigns can feel tone-deaf at best and hypocritical at worst. Mere grandstanding when more concrete actions could better anchor their messaging.
Then again, that these ads will be seen all across Mexico, a country that remains riddled with endless stories of femicide, offers perhaps a kinder way of understanding its impact. (Indeed, a look through the video’s YouTube comments make you want to root for the ad’s message.) Thus, rather than seeing this as a calculated cash grab (what marketing campaign, isn’t?) there’s no doubt that a vision of gleeful, empowered women running through the streets of Mexico City working together for a common goal is emboldening. It suggests that such feminist messages aren’t minority-held views or niche ideas reserved for a few but rather commonsense ideals everyone — including embattled corporate overlords — should be embracing.