Sportswear has long been multifaceted. Sportswear as facilitator of movement, as beautifier of movement. Sportswear as uniform or prop, as mask or costume.
The two global behemoths of sports clothing, Nike and Adidas, have both released new cinematic adverts. They are fascinating examples of established brands shaping their category by forging an adventurous path with a radical aesthetic and tone of voice.
Multi-talented artist and athlete, FKA Twigs, directs and stars in the Nike ‘DO YOU BELIEVE IN MORE?’ advert. This ad feels like a deep and deliberate fissure with what has gone before. Through the choreography of the athletes, we are told a story about the holistic nature of sporting prowess. Sport is meditation, sport is sound, sport is expression. Achievement in the new Nike world view is creative not linear, it is about manifesting a physical expression of an internal feeling. Sport becomes an exploration of the self, it is self-improvement and meditation, it is perfecting a craft, and not honing a physique, it is the blend of the mental and physical. Nike is once again telling us to be our best, but the definition has loosened, or rather, it is up for grabs, be your best, your way. We are challenged to be cerebral and have faith, to ‘Believe In More’, a far cry from the prosaic pragmatism of Just Do It.
The Adidas Originals advert, ‘ORIGINAL IS NEVER FINISHED’, feels more like an edgy European short film than a commercial for one of the world’s best-known companies. The advert is a heady combination of high and low culture, of creation and destruction, of discordant image and sound. The aesthetic is stark, aggressive and even unsettling at points. The conflict between ‘original’, ‘imitation’ and ‘new’ is foregrounded.
Many brands with an illustrious heritage to mine content themselves with worshipping at the altar of their past rather than translating this myth into something that still resonates in the present. Adidas, however, sidesteps this trap by speaking about the notion of ‘original’ in a radically updated way. Original means the first, but when transposed into the past it is just the first of many, or in other words, old, the very antithesis of original. Arguably, once original lives in the past, it ceases even to merit the term. Therefore, the only way to stay original is to combat the anxiety of influence, to set original alight and resurrect it. Adidas stands for the restless pursuit of the new.
Both adverts converge on a new aesthetic (interestingly also present in the Dior Couture show) and set of beliefs around sport. There are shades of spirituality, meditation, and worship where bodies in motion are transformed into higher, other-worldly beings. This marks a new commercial occasion for sport; exercise is becoming a form of worship, to the human form, to movement and to creation.
Form and content align, these are pieces of art and their message is clear, go create, go express. Welcome to Sport 2.0.