The Baltimore Ravens, Super Bowl Champions, achieved football greatness earlier this month. Roger Federer, often referred to as the GOAT of the tennis world – Greatest of All Time. And in a couple of weeks, Hollywood will spend an evening telling us who has achieved greatness on the big screen.
Greatness, a noun. But, what exactly is it and how does it apply to social marketing? Society tends to define greatness as being at the pinnacle of something, particularly in a sport or career. But what about those small personal achievements, those little steps toward a goal, or just making some behavior change that can advance a healthier lifestyle? Do we consider those achievements acts of greatness? If we don’t, why not? If we do, then are we clear in our communications and messaging to our target audiences, in saying loud and proud, “yes, [insert target audience name] you are doing great things; you are achieving greatness!”
So, where is all of this great rhetoric coming from? Glad you asked.
Last year, during the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, Nike embarked on a new ad campaign, “Find Your Greatness.” There were a series of ads that ran, showing people doing various different types of activities such as a little boy trying to skate board like the big kids, teenage girls doing double-dutch at the playground, or a young gymnast tumbling in her front yard. But one version I saw really stuck with me. A 12-year-old boy, named Nathan Sorrell, from London, Ohio (town name is not a coincidence), lumbering down the street in this rural town. Before you can actually see him, you just hear his feet shuffling with great effort down the pavement. Nathan is 5’2” and 200 pounds, obese. The voice over in the Nike ad says, “Greatness, it’s just something we made up. A gift reserved for a chosen few – prodigies…superstars. And the rest of us can only stand by, watching…” Wait! Is that true? Greatness is only reserved for the special folks who can swim the fastest, catch the most spectacular pass, or give the Oscar-winning performance. I beg to differ. Greatness, as the voice continues, “…is not some rare DNA strand; it is no more unique to us than breathing.” Now, as you can imagine there was an outpouring of praise and criticism, alike for this ad. Let me just cut to the chase. Was Nike exploiting this overweight child or were they making generous nod to those who have finally decided to Just Do It? Or was Nike actually making a statement toward the growing epidemic of childhood obesity – 1 in 3 U.S. kids are overweight – and subtly saying, we are redefining greatness. You don’t have to be like Mike anymore. The voice in the ad concludes, “…we’re all capable of it. All of us.”
See the ad here:
Okay, where was I? Oh yes, I remember. Are we applauding greatness, in all of its forms? Perhaps as we put together our campaign tweets, Facebook posts and text reminders, we add a message about greatness, even if it is for the most minor of steps – shuffling feet. For everyone we are trying to reach, whether it is in the childhood obesity campaigns we implement; or the message to take steps to lower your risk for heart disease; or saying to sit out this week’s football game because of the hard hit in the head you took last week; whatever it is, every small action, is a step toward greatness. Let’s applaud both the two pound weight loss as much as the 40 pound weight loss. We want to encourage everyone to start to find their greatness.
Read more about the ad and debated controversy in Time Magazine here.