Your Shot: How Nike, W+K and Titmouse Fused Math, Mirth and Musicals to Celebrate Russell Westbrook
Nike-sponsored NBA basketballer Russell Westbrook was on fire in 2016 and after setting a record 42 triple-doubles, the point guard was voted as the league’s MVP. To celebrate his win, Nike and Wieden+Kennedy tasked animation studio Titmouse to produce a dedicated spot for Nike’s Jordan sub-brand about the athlete’s historic year. Entitled ‘Why Not 0?’, the resulting animation is a captivating, energetic piece that infuses animation, rap and basketball action into a proper visual treat. LBB’s Jason Caines managed to grab a few minutes with Chase Conley, the co-director of the project, and Ben Kalina, the COO/supervising producer, to learn more about it.
LBB> What was the initial brief from Nike and Wieden+Kennedy for the ‘Why Not 0?’ project?
Chase Conley> We received a version of the commercial with School House Rock as the main visual reference. The overall direction was to make it more dynamic and fresh, a little ‘edgier’ and palatable for an older audience. This prompted the move to the Black Dynamite inspired version.
LBB> The piece’s simplistic rhyme and visual aesthetic seems more targeted towards children than adults. From your perspectives as creators, who was this piece made for?
CC> In my opinion, it’s great for all ages. The song is hip, incorporating a popular background ad-libbing style, used by groups such as ‘The Migos’. The lyrics that rapper Phonte (the voice of the NBA MVP trophy in ‘Why Not 0?’) recorded weren't too aggressive; they were fun and light-hearted. To keep the spot feeling fun and exciting, we chose a nice bright colour palette as well. The dynamic posing and cool dunks would satisfy most basketball fans that are fans of Russell Westbrook. That's his brand.
LBB> The entire project took nine weeks to complete from start to finish – that sounds like a quick turnaround. How did that break down? How long did you spend storyboarding and how long on animation and sound recording?
CC> We spent about a week storyboarding, and used the rough storyboards to get going since there wasn't much time to clean. We continued to tweak a shot here and there in the animatic the next week, while at the same time starting design on the shots that were locked and ready, so as to not waste any time. Animation spanned five-six weeks. The track was previously provided by W+K.
LBB> Who provided the voices of the different characters?
CC> Casting was not handled by Titmouse; Phonte is the voice of the MVP Trophy.
LBB> What role did Wieden+Kennedy play in creating the piece?
Ben Kalina> Wieden+Kennedy provided the music and voiceover for the piece, along with the original creative brief. The initial take was to do a School House Rocks style spot, but as the creative developed it felt a little young. That's when Titmouse was brought on to rework the storyboards and visuals to make the piece sync up with their desired audience.
CC> We worked side-by-side with W+K throughout the process (storyboarding/design/animation) to make sure Nike would be happy with each result, as they had a pretty good understanding of how their client would respond based on previous projects. I also think based on the previous spot they sent, they knew we could go in an entirely different direction visually, while keeping the originally approved story beats.
LBB> Titmouse was chosen for its work on Black Dynamite. Was this because Nike wanted to evoke a visual style that had a strong black-community aesthetic? What was borrowed from Black Dynamite to this advert?
CC> Yes, that's correct. Ron (the other co-director on ‘Why Not 0?’) and I were both character designers on Black Dynamite. In terms of shape language, it's very close to our own personal drawing styles, so I wouldn't say we borrowed anything from Black Dynamite, but more pulled the aesthetic from ourselves.
LBB> The speaking trophy reminds of the animated teapot from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast – Is this just a random occurrence or was that a homage to that character?
CC> The speaking trophy style was completely random on our end. We stayed in the realm of the trophy designed in the previous spot W+K provided, since Nike had already approved the shape and feel.
LBB> What were the major challenges of completing the project?
CC> The only real challenge was the schedule. Though working with the likeness of a celebrity is a challenge in any capacity. Everything else flowed smoothly.
LBB> How was it working with Nike? Did they have certain stipulations about the piece?
BK> Most of the interaction with Nike was handled by the agency; for as large a brand as Nike is, it was a very smooth process.
CC> W+K had the right idea about what they would respond to; the only thing we had to be mindful of included legal stuff, like not using existing jerseys from other teams and getting too close to the likenesses of other players.
LBB> Did Russell Westbrook have much influence on the piece? Were the kind of shots he’s famous for and movements on the court inform the piece?
CC> Outside of referencing his movements (his signature dance and thunderous dunks), I can't say that he influenced much on our end.
LBB> Are there any plans to take this aesthetic further? Can we expect more Nike and Titmouse work in the future?
CC> I'm always down! *Fingers crossed* This was a super fun project, and I look forward to any future work with both parties.
Category: Clothing/fashion , Sports