Creative Tom Hall on how this Nike spot had to go beyond the Mobot and the smiles
Last week Sir Mo Farah’s track career came to an emotional end as he won a silver medal in the 5,000m race in the World Championships. After an illustrious career that’s seen him become Britain’s most successful track athlete, he was able to run his last race in front of his home crowd in London.
Famous for his positivity and good humour, he’s become a national icon - the perfect face for a Nike ad campaign - but Wieden+Kennedy London decided to take a less obvious approach, demonstrating the grit behind Mo’s smile. LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with Wieden+Kennedy London’s Tom Hall to understand the creative thinking behind the film.
LBB> What was the brief from Nike for this spot?
Tom Hall> To celebrate Mo’s iconic career ahead of his impending retirement from the track.
LBB> Where did the idea start?
TH> First and foremost, it was important for us to create something that really got under the skin of the man, rather than something that simply replayed the Mo Farah narrative everyone knows so well. The interesting thing is that most people don’t look at Mo and recognise the tremendous strength of mind it has taken to endure the journey he’s been on, both professionally and personally. All they see is the ‘Mobot’ and the smiley façade. Mo even says himself, most people “don’t have a clue” how much hardship has gone into his success.
So with his track career drawing to an end, we wanted to finally give people an uncomfortable insight into the other side of Mo Farah. A side they’ve never seen before.
LBB> The film feels intensely London in its spirit. Was that something you were gunning for throughout?
TH> Mo is a proud Londoner. The city has played a huge role in shaping him into the resilient athlete and man he is today. So with the film set to be released before his penultimate track appearance at the World Championships in London, we felt it was important to make the spirit and texture of the city intrinsic to the work.
LBB> The tone is unique, but seems to chime well with a lot of Nike's advertising output around the world. What were your key considerations on getting that balance right?
TH> Nike work is at its best when it’s rooted in a rock solid sporting insight. Once you’ve got that you’ve got license to play around with the tone. In this case, we arrived at the insight and then tried to give the work a gritty, but optimistic tone that felt both uniquely London and uniquely Mo.
LBB> How did you get George the Poet involved? He feels perfect for this campaign.
TH> We wanted an authentic Londoner to write a beautiful, poetic ode to Mo Farah in their own words and George fit the bill perfectly.
LBB> I'd love to know about the writing process. It's a beautiful script. Did it all come from George or was it more of a collaboration between him and you as creatives?
TH> The writing came from George with direction from us.
LBB> What was it about Mark Zibert that made him the right person to direct the spot?
TH> A multitude of things. His ability to make gritty subject matter look stunning on camera, his technical prowess and his vast experience shooting elite athletes were all big draws. Plus, he’s effortlessly cool and I was hoping some of it would rub off on me. No such luck.
LBB> What was the shoot like? Did you have much time with Mo?
TH> The shoot was an incredibly glamorous affair - two long days spent haring round exotic Wormwood Scrubs. Luckily, Mo was an absolute trooper (as expected) and pulled out a number of Oscar-worthy performances to keep things running smoothly.