Revisioning the Swoosh

I've been meaning to comment for some time on Nike's latest basketball ad campaign, titled "The Battle". For quite some time, Nike advertising has been amongst the most cutting-edge, and this latest offering continues in that tradition.

There are two parts (so far) to "The Battle": "Speed" and "Elevation". "Speed" features Steve Nash, Gary Payton, Jason Kidd, and Tony Parker in a matchup of some of the best point guards in the NBA going at each other one-on-one. Footage of their head-to-head matchups is spliced together with clips of great ballhandling and defence by other anonymous playground athletes. "Elevation", on the other hand, features Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter trying to outdo each other in a showdown of mano-a-mano dunking one-upmanship. The result is a spectacular montage of power, grace, and artistry, which finally ends with a rim that has been torn from its moorings.

What might be most interesting about the entire campaign is in the way it forces us to reconsider the nature of competition. No score is kept, no clear cut winner emerges, yet we are truly witnessing sport taking place at its highest level. As I have mentioned earlier, we need to understand the new dialectic of sport, which is both competitive and cooperative at the same time. Without the latter, we negate the art that is created through athletic bodies in motion.

Logo is a trademark of Nike

Nike seems to understand this fact, and their latest campaign (as well as some others) is a response to the postmodern reality of sport. This response is encapsulated at the close of each spot, which features the ubiquitous swoosh — a highly symbolic brand mark and an art form in its own right — faced off against itself. It's imperative that Nike understands this new reality — if they miss this crucial point, then they may find that their raison d'etre will cease to exist.


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