A Blind Runner Has No Time for Doubt in Nike’s Latest Empowerment Campaign

Inspiring Russian athletes star in new ads from W+K Amsterdam

Sometimes, when a task seems too daunting, and the fear of failure looms large, asking “Can I?” or “Should I?” will only deflate your dreams.

At such times, it’s probably best to skip the questions, dig down deep, and find your own answers.

In other words: Believe in yourself — and just do it.

That’s the message of “Never Ask,” a poignant campaign from Nike Russia and Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam. Spots timed to coincide with the ongoing FIFA World Cup tournament present three determined, dedicated athletes who overcame long odds and adversity to succeed at their chosen sports.

First, we meet competitive runner Elena Fedoseeva, who doesn’t let blindness slow her down:


“Through a load of research and interviews, we found some of the most badass athletes in Russia,” Craig Williams, W+K Amsterdam creative director, tells Adweek.

“We realized these new young Russian athletes had a different mindset and mentality,” he says.

“They didn’t need to listen to others or try to fit within a rigid system — which is a somewhat ‘Punk’ ethos in many ways, of never asking permission along their journey.”

Next, we dive into the story of Aleksandr Maltsev, Russia’s first—and so far only—professional male synchronized swimmer, according to the brand:


“We wanted to create a symbol for our campaign to allow (Russian) kids (and teens) to rally behind and own,” Williams says. “This work was also designed to speak directly to their experiences, the possible naysayers in their lives, and tell them no matter their circumstance, they have the inner self belief to achieve their sporting dreams.”

Here’s footballer Fyodor Smolov, who rose from the second string to make a big score:


Across all three films, the vibrant, at times visceral visual style employed by SomeSuch director Daniel Wolfe really drives home the athlete stories and broader brand message. He brings considerable artistry to bear, crafting spots that fuse the narrative depth of mini-documentaries with the intensity of quick-cut Hollywood trailers.

In addition, W+K produced a fourth spot with Riff Raff director David Wilson. It takes a sort of Russian anime approach to celebrate the “korobka,” or football cage where local kids learn to play. For this particular piece, colorful outdoor murals of various “Never Ask” athletes come alive:


“The Korobka story was a really challenging piece of work to deliver,” recalls Williams. “It was eight night-shoots in a row, meaning not a lot of sleep and moving around to install each of the pieces of the OOH across different locations throughout Moscow. The posters were all hand cut and hand installed, and they were the equivalent of over a kilometer of material.”

Ultimately, “Never Ask” tallies by channeling Nike’s classic hard-nosed spirit and reframing it in bold, compelling ways.

“That’s exactly the take out we wanted,” says Williams. “(We wanted) people to feel the ‘Just Do It’ mentality of the stories and feel inspired to pull on their shoes and get out there and simply do the sport they love.”

CREDITS

CAMPAIGN: NIKE: NEVER ASK (Никогда Не Спрашивай)

AGENCY: WIEDEN+KENNEDY AMSTERDAM

Executive Creative Director: Eric Quennoy, Mark Bernath
Creative Director: Craig Williams, Evgeny Primachenko
Art Director: Hannah Smit (Korobka film), John Filipe (Athlete films, Social films, GIF Stickers),
Copywriter: Bernard Hunter (Korobka film, Athlete films, Social films), Lee Bolton (Freelance – Athlete films)
Russian Copywriter: Alexander Dobrokotov (Freelance)
Head of Broadcast Production: Joe Togneri
Executive Producer: Michael MacMillan (Korobka film)
Broadcast Producer: Javier Perroud (Athlete films), Jaime Tan (Athlete films), Khalid El Khouani (Social films), Cory Chonko (GIF Stickers)
Planning Director: Stephane Missier
Junior Planner : Anna Leonte
Communications Planning Director: Hillary Heath
Group Account Director: Kathryn Addo, Alyssa Ramsey
Account Director: Amber Martin
Account Manager: Molly Rugg
Head of Design: Joe Burrin
Studio Director: Lizzie Murray
Studio Designer: Steele Bonus (Korobka film)
Project Manager: Loes Poot
Business Affairs: Akvilina Jaskunaite (Korobka films/Social films/GIFs), Kacey Kelley (Athlete films), Belen Jerez (Athlete films), Emilie Douqué (Athlete films)

FILM PRODUCTION – ATHLETE FILMS

PRODUCTION COMPANY: SOMESUCH
Director: Daniel Wolfe
Producer: Lee Groombridge
Executive Producer: Seth Wilson
Director of Photography: Monika Lenczewska
Wardrobe Stylist: Hannah Edwards
Production Designer: Vladimir Radlinskiy
Line Production: Radioaktive Film

EDITING COMPANY: TRIM
Editor: Tom Lindsay, Dave Davis
Edit Assistant: Ed Hanbury
Producer: Polly Kemp

AUDIO POST: GRAND CENTRAL RECORDING STUDIOS
Sound Designer/Mixer: Raja Sehgal
Additional Sound Design: Aaron Taffel

MUSIC – SMOLOV
Optimo (MM remix)
Artist / Title: Liquid Liquid & MassiveMusic
Music Company: 99 Records & MassiveMusic

MUSIC – FEDOSEEVA
Swan Lake Suite Op. 20 (Reworked)
Artist / Title: Tchaikovsky
Music Company: Universal Production Music & MassiveMusic

MUSIC – MALTSEV

Artist / Title: Phil Kay/ Never Say Never
Music Company: Woodwork Music
Producer: Andy Oskwarek, Sam Phillips

POST PRODUCTION
THE MILL: 2D Lead Artist
Dan Williams & Carl Norton
2D Artists: Fergal Hendrick, Rebecca Clay, Jose Caballero, Alfie Vaughan, Georgina Ford, John Thornton
3D Lead Artist: Philip Maddock
3D Artists: Vaclav Cizkovsky, Andrew Bartholomew, Edward Hicks, Sergio Xisto, Kate Gabrielova, Peter Agg, Maria Carriedo, Alain Thay, Carlo Carfora, Luis Cancio, Will Burdett, James Hansell
Colorist (Framestore): Simon Bourne
Producer (Framestore): Chris Anthony

FILM PRODUCTION: KOROBKA FILM

PRODUCTION COMPANY: RIFF RAFF FILMS
Director: David Wilson
Producer: Cathy Hood
Executive Producer: Matthew Fone
Director of Photography – Live Action: Benoit Soler
Director of Photography – Stop Frame: Toby Howell
Wardrobe Stylist: Vasilisa Gusarova
Production Designer: Egor Teretshenkov
Line Production: Hype Production

EDITING COMPANY: TRIM
Editor: Thomas Grover Carter

ANIMATION COMPANY: WIZZ
Director: CRCR
Producer: Matthieu Poirier

AUDIO POST: WAVE STUDIOS LONDON
Sound Designer/Mixer: Parv Thind

MUSIC
Artist / Title: Joan Jett / Bad Reputation
Music Company: Blackheart Records Group Inc.

POST PRODUCTION: GLASSWORKS AMSTERDAM
Lead Flame Artist: Kyle Obley
Flame Artist: Alex Pattinson
VFX Set Supervisor: Darren Macpherson
Colourist: Scott Harris
Producer: Lauren Loftus

FILM PRODUCTION – SOCIAL FILMS
PRODUCTION COMPANY: RIFF RAFF
Director: Finn Keenan
Director of Photography: Finn Keenan
Producer: Tom Birmingham
Executive Producer: Matthew Fone

EDITING COMPANY: WIEDEN + KENNEDY AMSTERDAM
Editor: Finn Keenan, Joe Walton
Animator: John Beckers

AUDIO POST: WAVE STUDIOS AMSTERDAM
Sound Designer/Mixer: Randall Macdonald
Sound Editing: Juan Pablo Thummler
Audio Post Producer: Estelle Papougnot

POST PRODUCTION: GLASSWORKS AMSTERDAM
Lead Flame Artist: Kyle Obley
Flame Artist: Alex Pattinson, Alexis da Camara
After Effects Artist: Hugo Rodriguez
Colorist: Scott Harris
3D Artist: Claudio Pavan
VFX Producer: Dave Moore

INTERACTIVE PRODUCTION – GIF STICKERS

PRODUCTION COMPANY: LISBON STUDIO
Director: Thomas Ormonde
Producer: James Lowrey

LAUNCH – OOH PRODUCTION PARTNER: FACES & LACES MOSCOW


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@DaveGian davegia@hotmail.com David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.
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