"I Feel Pretty" - Nike and Sharapova

September 18, 2006

I watched The U.S. Open Tennis Tournament with my twelve-year-old son, Zach, earlier this month. We love this great tournament! But, what struck us was a great commercial that featured the womenís tennis star, Maria Sharapova.

The spot uses the song "I Feel Pretty" from the musical West Side Story. It shows numerous characters singing parts of that song, some are well-known tennis players (John/Patrick McEnroe) and some are ordinary workers (cab driver/housekeeper).

The spot opens as Sharapova is triumphantly strutting along, 6'1" tall, as she's spotted by numerous fans and paparazzi walking through the Waldorf-Astoria lobby heading into a taxi outside to go to the U.S. Open. There are some great characters portrayed in this commercial. Zach particularly likes the bearded guy — a cameraman, the linesman at The Open, and the NYC cab driver. The commercial is captivating and the music is catchy.

In the spot, the crowd looks at Sharapova as someone whoís extremely attractive, like a stunning model/celebrity. However, as she arrives on the U.S. Open tennis court, she turns into Sharapova, the tennis player. And, as she plays one point, smashing a backhand winner, the crowd turns silent, as if in utter amazement. This attractive woman is actually a great tennis player. The ad ends with a swoosh logo and the word — Nike.

We enjoyed seeing this commercial because it has charisma and the music and Sharapova's charm drew us in. The one flaw with the spot is, at the very end of the commercial, the logo for Nike appears fleetingly. And, we were surprised as we didn't even recall that the commercial was for Nike until after witnessing it numerous times. My son initially thought the ad was to draw people into coming to the Open. I thought it's a spot to attract people to watch the women's tennis tour.


"I Feel Pretty" is an entertaining commercial. But, we do not feel it will draw more people into buying Nike products. And, for a top-tier, global brand, like Nike, that spends a ton of money promoting their brand at major sporting events, perhaps they could have produced a spot with the intention of keeping Nike more top-of-mind.  

What branding professionals often witness in TV advertising are highly creative spots that are well produced and memorable. However, many are memorable for the wrong reason ñ not to sell their products, but as a vehicle for entertainment. An apt tennis analogy is that we truly ìlovedî seeing this spot, but unfortunately in tennis "love" means nothing.

Oh, by the way, that "pretty" girl won The U.S. Open Women's Singles Title!

Chet and Zach Halperin - chalperin@corebrand.com

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