Nike’s new ad captures the diverse heart of London—with one glaring omission

It’s hard in the city.
It’s hard in the city.
Image: Nike
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Nike’s newest ad is garnering lots of praise for its fun, frenetic depiction of London life as experienced by the city’s young athletes—as well as a bit of criticism.

Called “Nothing Beats a Londoner,” it cuts quickly back and forth among the trials London’s residents endure, and scrappily overcome day after day, for their sports, whether football, tennis, boxing, skating, rowing, or something else. The energetic and frequently funny ad shows young Londoners contending with long commutes, rain, wind, and other hardships as they cross through neighborhoods from Peckham to Dalston, and it has drawn a lot of appreciation from city residents who say the sneaker—ahem, trainer—brand nailed what it’s like to live in their city.

Key to that authenticity are the cultural beats Nike hits, such as the local references to spots like Morley’s Chicken, the music, the cameos from grime artists including Skepta and Giggs, and appearances by British athletes like Mo Farah and Harry Kane. The main stars, though, are 258 young Londoners that Nike used to put a spotlight on London’s “vibrant youth culture and inclusive sports community.”

But there’s one group noticeably missing from the ad: South Asians, who are a sizable part of London’s population. While many appreciate the ad’s celebration of black culture in London, others have complained that failing to fully represent the city’s diversity is a serious misstep. The issue has even led to some tension online as Londoners debate the reasons for the omission. We’ve reached out to Nike for comment and will update this story with any reply.

In June 2017, Nike identified London as one of 12 key cities across 10 countries that it will focus on in an effort to fuel its global growth. The company said it expects more than 80% of its projected growth through 2020 to come from those locations, which in addition to London include New York, Shanghai, Beijing, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Paris, Berlin, Mexico City, Barcelona, Seoul, and Milan.

“Local business, on a global scale,” is how Nike framed the strategy. The “Nothing Beats a Londoner” ad seems like an attempt to appeal to the city’s potential shoe buyers by showing that Nike understands London’s culture. Nike got a lot right in the ad. Though it may have alienated some potential customers too.