My body shape is best described as “an egg on toothpicks”. Thin legs, bulky upper body – no backside . . . “the great ass-less wonder”, as some friends refer to me – fondly I’m told.
The point is that I am not the type of toned individual that Sporting Goods Manufacturers typically use in their advertising campaigns. You will not see me rapidly scaling Lion’s Head Mountain (Cape Town) in glistening glory on a Friday morning before work.
Reaching the summit with only but a hint of chasing breath, the deep blue waters of the Atlantic ocean stretching below – you will not find me, hands aloft, grinning with accomplishment, winking at the camera before sprinting off for the epic journey back.
You will find me red-faced, engulfed by feelings of misery and despair about 3km down from our traditional hero, cursing “last night’s last round” while praying the angel Gabriel descends from the heavens to rescue my sweat-soaked-soul from this wretched cliff – my wife’s idea of holiday fun.
In a recent article on LinkedIn, Jim Weber speaks of the marketing genius of Nike to release a Pro Hijab for female Muslim athletes. “The hijab and accompanying “What Will They Say About You?” ad campaign is. . . about Nike marketing itself to the 1.6 Billion Muslims across the world and winning their loyalty,” says Weber, also pointing to the significance of the timing, given the present state of affairs.
It is a stroke of genius but the stroke is possibly broader and more significant than that.
With the Nike “plus-size” sportswear range for women now entering mainstream the brand message seems to be that Nike is for everyone – that for anyone who wants to succeed, regardless of shape, size, creed or culture, you will find a supportive friend in the famous “swoosh”.
“Nike recognises that women are stronger, bolder and more outspoken than before,” says the company in a recent statement. “In today’s world, sport is no longer something that she does, it’s who she is.”
Nike is finding ‘new markets’ by tapping the shoulders of non-traditional customers, and tapping into the psyche of the missing masses.
At a time when exclusion and division are fuelled by waves of populism and discord, Nike is emerging as a (somewhat surprising) voice of reason.
Not by being overly political or blatantly defiant but in a subtle and simple message that says; “go out there and live your life – we’ll fit in with you”.
To me that’s reason enough to want to climb that mountain one more time, to push a little harder, to drag my egg-shaped-self to the summit and in a collapsed heap of victorious misery stand equal to all that have gone before.