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. lucy

    August 17, 2021 8:26 pm

    while these are more appealing ads that feature skateboarding, it relies on the premise that skateboarders are athletes and skateboarding is a sport, which has been utilized by major brands to increase sales. skateboarding is not a sport and it’s hella dumb if you try to make it one

  2. Leonard

    August 17, 2021 8:40 pm

    Kid asked for a sticker … and Frost snapped! Just went berserk on him.

  3. pp martinez

    August 18, 2021 10:16 am

    What if we treated our factory workers like people -Nike

    • Nancy Sinatra

      August 20, 2021 2:47 pm

      This! This! Everything this! Nike pretending they’re so good, because they pay “core” professional skaters well. And skaters pretending Nike is good…

      • Jajaj

        August 22, 2021 4:42 pm

        And this! Feels also lil bit like skaters are becoming getting sick of nike and their hyper marketing stategies for skateboarding