Nike takes on “toxic masculinity” in new ad starring Marcus Rushford


Nike, the world’s leading innovator in athletic footwear, clothing and sport’s gear has officially launched the second instalment of its ‘Play New’ campaign. The newest of Nike’s ad by Wieden+Kennedy stars England national football team number 11 & Manchester United F.C number10 forward- “Marcus Rushford.”

“Oi you, sit down. Shut up… and listen ‘ere! You need to get a few things in your head if you’re going to make it in this game… alright?”

With an opener like none other this time from a talking football, the 52-second spot takes on gender inequality and toxic masculinity and is rightly titled “Toxic Football.” Speaking with the wisdom of having spent a long time on the field at the feet of various footballers, the testament speech from the old, tattered and dirty football is nothing short of a bluster.

Throughout the ad, the “talking football” speaking in a British accent can be seen calling for players to embrace their ‘nasty streak’ and be ‘vicious and angry.’ But the nonsense bickering doesn’t end there; directly targeting the theme of toxic masculinity, the football goes ahead emphasizing phrases such as “Remember this is a man’s game” and “Nice guys finish last.”

Forty seconds into the rant, Marcus Rushford cuts off the football’s nonsense speech and abruptly kicks the ball off the screen. The action symbolizes Nike’s unique way of addressing and putting an end to toxic masculinity and gender inequality, which is so often seen on the football field.

Last month, London based creative agency Wieden+Kennedy had conceptualized the pilot for Nike’s ‘Play New’ campaign. The ‘Play New’ campaign embraces the “Power of Play” and aims to find “joy in movement, play and competition.”

The second instalment of Nike’s ‘Play New’ campaign is dropped in the form of films from not one but two Wieden’s offices. The second spot from W+K Tokyo addresses the fact that Japan is currently ranked 123 out of 151 countries on the gender equality index. The income gap between men and women in Japan is a drastic 43.7%. By including a clip from star Japanese tennis player “Naomi Osaka”, the 2-minute spot emphasizes that “girls can do anything!” be it stepping into the sumo ring, a powerful baseball shot, figure skating or a rough game of rugby, among other things.

Nike’s broader “Play New” campaign signals a clear change of course into examining the wider social and emotional connections we have to sport.

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