VIDEO ESSAY: THE STORY BEHIND NIKE’S “WHAT IF” CAMPAIGN

August 17, 2021/ Alex Coles/ VIDEOS/ Comments: 11

It’s no secret that when companies try to incorporate skating into their advertising and marketing, they tend to fall flat.

They often get simple things wrong, like filming a skater’s ass for an entire line, using a horrid skate pun as a slogan, or they just commit other basic offenses that any sensible skater would know how to avoid.

But back in the late ’90s, Nike figured out a clever and unconventional way to reach skaters as they developed what became one of the earliest and most memorable TV commercial campaigns to feature skateboarding—the “What If?” series.

The commercials took a thought-provoking approach that showed skaters Nike understood skateboarders’ gripes using a simple question: “What if we treated all athletes the way we treat skateboarders?” It still remains one of the best examples of self-aware skate advertising in 2021.

We decided to do a little digging and talk to the heads behind the campaign to tell us how the idea came about. It’s not every day a marketing wiz will let you in on their creative processes, so consider yourself lucky to get some special intel from one of the very best in the biz.

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Comments

  1. Jeff

    August 17, 2021 3:34 pm

    Let’s gooooooo. Video production and quality on point. Super sick.

  2. Old Guy

    August 17, 2021 3:35 pm

    this level of production was your best yet.
    love to see it.
    jenkem stays evolving.

  3. Jon soto

    August 17, 2021 6:35 pm

    I created these back in the day. Happy to tell you all about it. Crazy story. I love skateboarding. Always have. Always will. So does my son Matt. @fuegotennesse. I love what you guys do. jonsoto.com

  4. Luke

    August 17, 2021 7:17 pm

    Nice behind the scenes look and commentary. I remember these ads well.

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