The Kaepernick Spot


Let me start by saying I am not addressing here the question of should Nike have backed Colin Kaepernick by making him the focus of the 30th Anniversary of the Just Do It campaign.

Of course, I have an opinion, but this is not the place for political opinion. Let’s keep it that way, respect each other’s politics, and let those dogs lie here.

That said, there’s been some discussion in the VO community around whether Kaepernick himself, a pro athlete and not a professional voiceover talent, should have been the one to voice the spot at all.

I have to be honest. I don’t subscribe to the pushback from within the VO community against celebrity voiceovers. The underlying theme seems to be that celebrities are somehow taking work from hard working non-celebrity VOs.

Please. Mark Hamill’s not taking any money out of my pocket, nor I his.

There’s an old adage in sports: if you don’t like the other team running up the score, then stop them. If you’re worried about Jon Hamm voicing Mercedes Benz, then work hard, get more training, practice, get better, and go beat Jon Hamm.

But the point I’ve heard in VO circles since the famous Nike spot, from several VOs, is that Nike and their agency should have hired a professional voiceover, rather than using Kaepernick.

Is Colin Kaepernick a trained voiceover artist, and was this the best possible read of the script? No, and no.

But that’s not the point.

Courtesy of Nike.

Courtesy of Nike.

Politics completely aside, this spot is a story of sacrificing and overcoming obstacles as they relate to and transcend sport.

This spot HAD to be done 1st person. The impact is immeasurably higher coming from the person who walked the walk, rather than an anonymous, disembodied voice talking the talk. The script was cleverly written so that it can be easily adapted to other figures in later iterations, or yes, even delivered by a more generic VO.

But once the decision was made that Kaepernick would be the focal point of the spot, then the decision to make the copy personal by having him voice it was a no-brainer.

Did he do an admirable job, way better than most inexperienced folks? Yes.

Was the unsung hero the voiceover director, who did a great job getting a solid performance out of him? Undoubtedly.

You can argue whether or not Nike should have done the spot with Kaepernick, but it absolutely should not have been voiced by anyone other than him.

I invite your comments, but please, keep politics out of the discussion.