Nike Basketball, in partnership with Wieden+Kennedy, released a LeBron James comeback spot titled, “Together”. It is an “emotional” spot depicting King James’ return to the city of Cleveland. It has been getting a lot of PR and positive reviews lately, especially in the creative industry. Where it is an emotion-provoking spot, beautifully crafted, I began to wonder if the insight was correct.
Let’s take a step back in time. Back in 2010, LeBron “announced” to the world that he was leaving Cleveland to join the Heat in Miami. LeBron’s ego-driven press conference was not well received, to stay the least, in Cleveland. You even had the owner of the Cavs, Dan Gilbert, say that LeBron’s actions were a “cowardly betrayal” and went on to say, “the good news is that the ownership team and the rest of the hard-working, loyal, and driven staff over here at your hometown Cavaliers have not betrayed you nor NEVER will betray you.” These are pretty heated words born out of a lot of negativity, disappointment, disgrace and betrayal. We all began to wonder if Cleveland would ever want a part of LeBron again.
Now, without going too far into LeBron’s resigning with the Cavs, I think it’s more important to note the negative sensitivity that existed in Cleveland only four years ago. Now, in 2014, all of a sudden it is the “return.” LeBron is welcomed back with open arms by the city he put behind him in the most publicly and somewhat humiliating way? That being said, let’s look at the spot.
Hard work, together. It’s an inspiring and hopeful phrase. The film depicts the entire city coming together and building themselves to a hopeful epoch. It’s the Hope campaign all over again. As I watched this and I remember the past, and as a strategist who prides himself on human truths, I wonder if “Hope” and “Togetherness” was the right idea for the insight. Or, more specifically, I wonder if the insight was correct.
To me, this whole “return” is more dramatic than simply positivity and hope. It’s more than holding our hands and singing kumbaya. It’s more than just the gritty black and white film, it’s more than just giving back to a city that was once destroyed by an ego. And it’s way more than just showing people coming together. To me, the insight is more about the prodigal son returning.
The age old story about a son who disavowed everything and everyone who helped raise him. It’s a story about not being mature and only realizing that once he is out in the world. It’s more about coming home and being humble. It’s about being more than just a star, it’s about giving back, making amends and more so, it’s not about playing a game of basketball to ask for forgiveness.
Together also reminds me of another spot, “Made in New York featuring Derek Jeter. This was a film right on message. It conveyed the true feeling New Yorkers and all those who love baseball had about Jeter. It summarized his character and how the city, how the world truly felt about the man, then the sport. It wasn’t about ego, it was about thanking people.
Just as much as the Gatorade ad, the Together spot is beautifully crafted, it does have the “goose bump inducing” feeling. The ad has a grit to it, it has a feeling of truth and it has an emotive undertone. But the message of Hard Work, Together is about a city rising from the ashes, not about an NBA star telling them how to do so.