Nike plays a new game - McKinney

Nike plays a new game

February 23, 2009

The eye-catching, two-minute online video “Biological Science: Introducing the Female Body” looks like a vintage educational science film. The visuals have a worn look, the audio includes the sound effect of a film projector and the graphics are reminiscent of textbook imagery. But more attention getting than the aesthetic of the McKinney-produced Nike film is the education it presents.

“The female body. Amazing, in its own way. Not as strong or as fast as the male body, but it still works for cooking, cleaning and collecting firewood,” a male voiceover begins. He goes on to compare male and female brains, the latter of which are “not equipped with the math skills you need to beat world records or keep score.” The claims get more inflammatory as the video progresses, with references to weak minds and bodies built to have babies. And during menstrual cycles, the voiceover explains, women “must be kept inside lest they attract bears.”

These “facts” — all reasons, the video explains, that women should not do sports — are meant to be outrageous. As the voiceover concludes his argument, the projected film seems to burn and the real message comes through: “Beat the inequality, stereotypes, myths, mistreatment. Beat the BS.” The video ends with a call to action: “Change the game for women everywhere.”

The video promotes an online competition called GameChangers: Change the Game for Women in Sport. It’s being presented by Nike and Ashoka, a nonprofit community of social entrepreneurs, who have teamed up for a second year in a row in a global search for sports programs that help create social change.

As of press time, there were 266 entries from 42 countries. One encourages girls to buy soccer balls hand stitched by widowed Afghan women, another the interaction between Palestinian and Israeli girls through sports. Twelve finalists will be selected by a panel of judges from a variety of fields who will look at factors such as level of innovation and potential impact — and will be posted online for public voting the first two weeks of April. The three winners will be announced April 15.

Nike is making a concerted effort to corral its global youth community around its corporate-related social causes. The company’s corporate-responsibility group, for instance, hired McKinney six months ago to help it better engage the youth market and to give the division a consumer interface (nikegamechangers.com, launched in November).

“GameChangers is the utility category within Nike that helps the youth of the world turn sport into an agent for social change,” says Jonathan Cude, CCO of McKinney in Durham, N.C., which worked with AKQA to produce the site.

Nikegamechangers.com prompts visitors to “beat” things like gasoline and pollution. “We wanted to turn doing good into a sport,‚Äù he says.