August 24th, 2016

Ad of the Week: The Iron Nun Inspires Us all in Nike’s “Unlimited Youth”


Ace Metrix

For many of us, myself included, the past couple have of weeks have been completely saturated with uplifting, inspirational stories and moments, through viewing both Olympic events and advertisements. Many ads have felt like an extension of the Games, with brands such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Chobani, and Nike delivering captivating branded content, authentically intertwined with athlete journeys and evocative messages.

Nike’s “Unlimited” campaign has brought several such spots, including “Unlimited You,” and “Unlimited Future,” as well as editions focused on specific Olympians such as Simone Biles, Allyson Felix, Gabby Douglas, and Serena Williams.

Ace Metrix testing shows that the ads resonate well with viewers, demonstrating high Breakthrough and a relatable message. The one “Unlimited” ad that rises above all others to date tells the story of 86-year-old nun Sister Madonna Buder, who has completed over 45 Ironman triathlons. To be clear, an Ironman race consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run.

“Unlimited Youth”, developed by Wieden & Kennedy Portland, appears in two versions – a :55 online video and a :30 TV ad that aired during the Olympics. Both lengths delivered excellent results in Ace Metrix analysis, with the longer of the two seeing a higher overall Ace Score, 650, vs. 625 for the :30. The Ad Personality graphic below illustrates the relative strengths of the longer version, showing the ad is driven by high Likeabilty and Attention – the two measures that indicate a Breakthrough ad – as well as a degree of Information.

Ad Personality “Unlimited Youth” (:55)

Ace Metrix Unlimited Youth Ad Personality

Looking at the creative devices that impressed viewers, the Characters and Visual Scenes are the most popular “Single Best Things” about the :55 ad, at 22% and 21%, with a solid 18% saying it was the Message. For Characters, along with Sister Buder, actor Oscar Isaac, who does the narration, also gets a few mentions, though not by name. These viewer comments give insight into what worked:

  • “Love the nun and the message that you’re never too old” – M21-35, Northeast, Ace Score 869

  • “I loved the repartee between the nun and the announcer. It made the ad feel more real and life like rather than an actual advertisement.” – F21-35, Midwest, Ace Score 718

  • “I love the way this is shot and the main character shown. I can completely relate to this. I am invested in being very active and trying to be that active when I am in my old age. Nikes are the most comfortable shoe I’ve had for running.” – F21-35, Midwest, Ace Score 734

Something Nike has managed to achieve throughout the “Unlimited” campaign is to incorporate humor with uplifting messages in clever ways. They did it in “Unlimited Future”, with actor Bobby Cannavale giving a pep talk to baby versions of Olympians, and in “Unlimited You,” with Oscar Isaac narrating a tale of pro athletes alongside amateurs, all pushing themselves to the limit. In our delightful homage to the oldest woman to ever compete in an Ironman race, NLP mining of emotional words in comments shows that Nike has once aain succeeded in this manner. The emotional word clouds below compare emotional response to “Unlimited Youth” and “Unlimited Future.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 8.45.26 AM

                                          (“Unlimited Youth”, left and “Unlimited Future” right)

Both ads clearly struck a nerve, driving heavy doses of words reflecting admiration (green), as well as words that indicate humor (navy), tugging at the heartstrings (pink), and keeping attention (turquoise.)

To show the its not just women for whom “Unlimited Youth” strikes an emotional chord, here are comments from male viewers:

  • “Great Ad and message, Very motivational and one of the better Ads I have seen from Nike” – M36-49, South, Ace Score 950

  • “This is a fantastic ad! I love the Sister and her determination…. much more energy than I have…lol!” – M36-49, South, Ace Score 675

  • “It is inspiring and entertaining to watch and learn about the Iron Nun.” – M16-20, West, Ace Score 635

Once again, Nike has shown that creating ads that are meaningful and entertaining to viewers will lead to better engagement. In trying to achieve similar greatness, we should all heed the words of Sister Madonna Buder, “The only failure is not to try.”



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