You can forgive top-level athletes for wanting to be left alone sometimes. A TV advert by Nike featuring Naomi Osaka currently airing has her asking the media to desist with their (often inane) questions.
The 21-year-old dropped out of the French Open on Saturday after losing to Katerina Siniakova, and attributed the disappointment partly to stress caused by being the top-seeded player.
But media focus often falls on things unrelated to sporting performance, such as Osaka’s mixed-race identity, Japanese language ability, food preferences and other perceived quirks. The TV spot suggests she finds it all quite tiresome, and her response to the barrage of questions is simply, “Shhh”.
Nike’s mantra for the campaign is ‘Don’t change yourself. Change the world’.
Osaka has worked with the brand since April, when she chose not to extend her deal with Adidas. Nike made the unusual move of allowing her to carry other sponsors’ logos on her outfit, which include Nissin and ANA.
The tennis star has a total of seven contracts, which also include Mastercard, Nissan and Shiseido, for which she endorses the sunscreen Anessa as being “best for sports”. In its current campaign, she explains that training and competing in the hot sun requires good protection.
Campaign’s view: Nike’s spot is simple, pertinent and effective, allowing Osaka’s personality to come across in a real scenario without the need for dialogue. It stands in some contrast to Anessa’s, which features an obviously scripted monologue that doesn’t allow for anything much in the way of character. In the end, whether they like it or not, athletes are about a lot more than their sports, and the most memorable work invariably touches on something deeper.