Nike recently released their latest commercial featuring Kobe Bryant. The story is simple: a ragtag group of thieves, lead by World Cup winning midfielder Gennaro Gattuso, are ravaging the city by stealing balls from its citizens. This, more mini movie than commercial, finds Kobe as the leader of a superhero attempting to unravel the heist. The commercial is interesting for its subtle reframing of Kobe’s brand. Watch the commercial below:
It’s telling that the only basketball player featured in this commercial is the Italian Marco Bellinelli, who has a bit cameo at the beginning. Instead, the ad uses the streets of Milan and some of the biggest names in Italian football as well (although the final boss of the film, Wesley Sneijder, is Dutch) to provide character. Italy is long seen in popular culture as a capital for fashion – this commercial uses that ideal to relay the message of Kobe’s style.
This European sensibility is combined with the grindhouse style of filmmaking, adding a sense of rawness. This 70’s exploitation feel, with its over the top acting and violence, references a colorful nostalgia as previously defined by the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. The commercial itself is a “long lost film”, the type of limited engagement treasure only known by true film buffs, adding to its authenticity.
This commercial is interesting because it isn’t about framing Kobe as an elite basketball player. The commercial doesn’t promise the consumer they’ll jump higher or will their team to victories. The shoe promises duo entry into an Italian style and grindhouse exclusivity. This is about Kobe being a cultured, worldwide icon. A subtle, but distinct difference as Kobe’s career winds down and his brand moves onto the next phase.