Disturbing or Encouraging? Insight on Nike’s Ads Featuring Overweight Kids

There is a great deal of controversy over the new Nike ads. The most recent ad to drum up criticism features an overweight boy running down a deserted street. This seems to make a number of fans feel inspired to work out, while others feel exploited.

Typically, sporting goods companies use seriously fit athletes showing off their muscles in their advertisements. Instead, in Nike’s “Find Your Greatness” campaign, overweight kids and other run of the mill, regular sized people are being used to motivate people to get in shape.

This message, that anyone can accomplish their goals no matter what you look like, is meant to inspire everyone in America, not infuriate viewers. But it seems that they’ve done both.

This campaign features regular, everyday people pushing their limits and getting in shape. Obesity is a growing problem all over the world, and the level of obesity in children is shocking. Everyone is in agreement that something needs to be done about it, but does this kind of ad accomplish that goal?

Many respondents say that this has inspired them and helped them. And I have to say, I agree. After watching the video a few times, I see a kid working his butt off to make himself stronger and more physically fit. And honestly, seeing buff workout fiends on ad campaigns doesn’t do the trick to inspire people who are severely out of shape, is can be discouraging. So in this aspect, Nike has done a good job to help everyday people feel like they can accomplish something.

200-pound kid in Nike ad determined to lose weight“Haters” motivate me to eat right and exercise. (Nathan Sorrell – Today Show)

The 12 year old featured in this ad is Nathan. He is loveable and people are proud of him and want him to feel better about himself and be healthy. But other viewers hate the idea, and feel like Nathan is being exploited or made fun of. Controversy soon started and YouTube views of the ad soared to over 1 million. Then it was learned that Sorrell wasn’t even a jogger. People were quick to attack Nike for trying to tackle America’s obesity epidemic and many had mean things to say about the “fat boy” who thought it sounded cool to try out for a Nike commercial.

Some viewers claim that the negative critics are making a big deal out of nothing. After all, it is just an ad campaign. Nike isn’t picking on the kid or making fun of overweight people. And they’re not even doing it to sell products- if you view the ad, you’ll notice that it doesn’t say Nike anywhere in the ad, and you can barely even see the kid’s tennis shoes. So they’re obviously not doing it for the money, they are trying to inspire people. They’re encouraging people to be their best, but nothing is forcing Nathan or anyone else to run. So who cares, in the end- it is just an advertisement.

While people may disagree on the Nike advertising strategy, it is an impactful campaign for millions of viewers who feel a new commitment to get off the couch and to work hard to get healthy. So can you really fault them for trying something different when the problem exists and isn’t getting any better? The one thing everyone can agree on? To cheer on Nathan as he strives for his personal greatness!




  1. Want to understand this. Understand the people behind the Frankfurt School.

  2. As long as Nike or anyone else is bringing awareness to the problem of obesity and the need for everyone to exercise, I am in support of the campaign. These same people who are complaining about this ad should instead stand up against the multi million dollar ad campaigns for video games which are making kids lead a sedentary lifestyle.

  3. This wouldn’t be the first time Nike launched a controversial ad message or strategy. Remember how they tested the limits of the Olympic rules on ambush marketing, launching a global TV campaign featuring everyday athletes competing in places around the world named London? campaign is clearly designed to cash in on Olympic fever and get one over on arch-rival Adidas, which paid tens of millions of pounds to be an official London 2012 global sponsor.

  4. I really don’t see what all the fuss is about regarding this commercial – unless that fuss is praise for a dramatic and intriguing commercial. I think it is a good piece of film making. And it is all the better if the kid is committed to getting in shape. That makes it a feel good story and an inspirational one, too. Kudos to him and to Nike for their bold vision.

  5. I agree with you completely, watching someone that is already fit work out and make it look easy is just false advertisement. You have to work hard to get into shape and you will feel like you can’t breathe etc. not like them. I am glad they used ordinary people to do this because I am tired of looking at the perfect people that is discouraging to me.

  6. I was very encouraged by this article. I have been beating myself up over my weight for a long time now and I thinking that I was to big to start running or anything because the shoes would break down on me to fast. This tells me that someone at Nike is thinking about that as well and I am super happy that they showed the new shoe this way.

  7. Guy, I agree with you, who is finding this disturbing as they put it? Nike didn’t make this to humiliate the kid and they didn’t use it in a bad way. People are naturally lazy and therefore they don’t like seeing thing that might make them feel like “why I am not doing something about my weight the US is the most obese nation out there and there is a reason why.

  8. I thought this kid was very courageous for doing this article and by everyone being disturbed by it means that they are not supporting what he did here and that he put himself out on a line like that and people basically pushed him off. This should be encouraging and uplifting for everyone. And it should be the proudest moment of this child’s life.

  9. Lee you are right when you look at it from the point of view of making a movie someone did an excellent job on this video. You have a great eye for this are you in the business your self? I enjoyed the commercial and I didn’t think it was as bad as they are making it out to be. Thank you for your comments that was fascinating.

  10. Who are the people having a problem with this ad, the people that don’t want to be motivated to get up and do something about their weight and this ad makes them feel guilty because this young man is doing it? I say if it doesn’t bother the young man in the ad then it shouldn’t bother you and if it does you should take a good look at yourself.

  11. What did the kid think about it? It isn’t a bad commercial so I don’t understand why the huge fuss. You have done a great job on this article and I would love to see some of the comments that people have left if you could post them. I think it is very inspiring though, I am not insulting him at all so don’t get me wrong but if he can do this I can.

  12. I thought this ad was very motivating, I watched it and it broke my heart for him but then I was proud of him because he has gotten up and gotten started trying to change his life, so why can’t I. If it doesn’t bother the kid that did the commercial it should bother others they should me inspired by it and thankful that he is changing his life.

  13. For a moment, I thought this was a really well made amateur promotional video, until of course I saw the Nike logo splashed across the screen at the end. But it is dramatic nonetheless. The camera angle is well placed and the anticipation of seeing who is jogging toward the Point Of View of the camera is suspenseful. Just shows that great film making can be simple, too.

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