Director Lance Acord talks at Ciclope about the politics and bravery of Nike’s Just Do It 30th anniversary campaign with Colin Kaepernick, writes Laura Swinton
Acclaimed commercials director and movie cinematographer Lance Acord has provoked many reactions with his ads. Laughter. The odd tear. But it was only this September that he made a spot that helped drive a lot of idiots to set their trainers alight and that added $6 billion to Nike’s stock market value.
Speaking at Ciclope Festival last week, Lance, who is also the co-founder of Park Pictures, reflected on the experience of working on the campaign that made such a strong social statement. The ad featured former NFL star Colin Kaepernick, who famously initiated the movement to ‘take a knee’ during the US anthem in protest against police brutality. From the get-go, Lance said that they knew it would be a hot potato. “I think we all felt that, but from my perspective and from Jackie [Kelman Bisbee, co-founder of Park Pictures] and the company… if there was heat, just bring it on,” he said.
Reflecting on the fact that, during the first week of the campaign’s release, objectors took to social media with videos of themselves burning their Nikes (with some bright sparks doing so whilst wearing them), Lance said that he had hoped that would inspire a wider engagement from athletes sponsored by competitor brands like Under Armour and Adidas.
“I wish they would have come out and said ‘burn our shoes too. If you’re going to burn their shoes, burn our shoes’. It would have been great if that could have happened,” he said.
Lance revealed that during the edit there were a few nervous jitters from various parties but he is full of praise for the team at Nike for following through. “It’s great that they stuck to it and put it out into the world. It took a lot of courage and, ultimately, when you look at our society and the degree to which we’re all immersed and enmeshed in this consumer society, it’s companies and corporations that can make as big a difference as anyone.”
Speaking more broadly about the political situation in his home country, he reflected that the Nike experience had made him wonder if perhaps brands might be more able to reach a solution and influence attitudes than any traditional political solution.
“I almost have more confidence now that if somehow we can get corporations to align with one another and to inspire some social change, maybe there’s better odds of that,” he said. “It might be wishful thinking, I don’t know.”