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Naomi Osaka slams reporters who ask her to speak in Japanese with new Nike commercial

Our new Nike commercial for Naomi Osaka was covered by Sora News 24. It’s always nice when your work ends up sparking a conversation. Click here to read original article.

Naomi Osaka slams reporters who ask her to speak in Japanese with new Nike commercial

”Osaka has just one word to say in response to all those annoying questions about her ethnicity and her love of katsudon.

Since winning the Australian Open and the U.S. Open against her idol Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka has taken the top-spot in the Women’s Tennis Association rankings, becoming the first Asian to hold the top spot in either men’s or women’s tennis.

Her success has brought her a lot of attention from the media, particularly in Japan, where her love of katsudon (pork cutlet rice bowls) and her half-Haitian, half-Japanese background remains a solid talking point. And one thing Japanese reporters can’t stop themselves from doing is asking her to answer their questions in Japanese.

After shutting down these reporters in the past, Osaka is now returning to address them and all others like them, with a new commercial for Nike. In the ad, she slams back at all the insensitive and impertinent questions that get served to her during interviews, and has just one word to silence them all.”

Take a look at the ad below:

In the clip, Osaka can be seen on the court, showing off her strong playing style as a volley of questions roll by. There’s “Who’s your biggest rival?”, “Are you a hard court specialist?” and “Do you consider yourself Japanese or American?”

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Then there are a few questions in Japanese, including “What are you going to buy with your prize money?”, “Can you answer in Japanese?” and “Will you eat katsudon again today?”

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How you feel when your love of katsudon comes up every time you’re interviewed.

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Then, at the end of the ad, Osaka turns to the camera and has just one thing to say in response to all those questions.

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In true Nike style, the clip delivers a strong message at the end: “Don’t change yourself. Change the world.”

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It’s a message that fits in nicely with Osaka’s public image, as a woman who continues to do her own thing while drowning out all the stereotypical questions from the media who want to place her in neat, narrow-minded boxes.

And judging from the reaction online in Japan, it’s a message a lot of Japanese people agree with too.

“What a fantastic ad! I hope everyone sees this.”
“Some of the questions in English are annoying but the Japanese questions are even more annoying.”
“Such a great insight into what she has to deal with every day.” 
“Japanese reporters need to watch this ad.”
“The Japanese media need to have more respect for her as an elite sportswoman.”

The Nike ad has definitely got everyone talking, and while it takes a different approach to one of her previous ads for Japanese brand Nissin, it’s definitely a step up from the controversial ad that whitewashed her appearance.

It’ll be interesting to see if this new commercial will have any effect on the types of questions reporters plan to throw at Osaka next time she does a round of interviews. Hopefully they’ll reign in the talk about katsudon and her ethnicity, and focus on her contribution to the world of sport, because as the star tennis player has said in the past, regardless of her dining preferences, background, and language ability, “I’m just me.

(Article by Oona McGee)

Is This Heaven? No, It's Rural Japan...

Many moons ago, Nike was thinking about producing baseball gear and they brought me in to test their prototypes. I came into campus, took some BP, threw some long toss and gave detailed feedback about how I felt. A couple of weeks later, they’d make some tweaks and we’d do it again. It was a dream gig for a high schooler. After that, I continued pushing my baseball career until I eventually had a major league tryout as a pitcher. A few weeks ago I found myself on a pristine baseball field in rural Japan, shooting an amazing 15-year old female baseball pitcher for a Nike commercial. It was one of those Field of Dreams type moments of nostalgia where you think about the journey and are grateful for all the talented teammates you’ve been lucky to have along the way. Thank you to @atlasfoto for your eye and soul capturing this personal moment of reflection in the middle of our intense work grind.  ️

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The Mamba Mentality Reviewed

I just finished reading Kobe Bryant’s first book, The Mamba Mentality: How I Play. In which he basically cements the late career caricature of Kobe Bryant that fans of the game know and expect by this point. These are the musings of Kobe Bryant as some kind of basketball playing Chuck Norris meme. Talking in the first person to make it feel conversational, but still having the egotism of an athlete speaking in the third person. The Mamba Mentality is basically the Nike #KobeSystem commercial, adapted into an ebook. It’s a funny schtick and vehicle for trash talk, but you know there is something deep and insightful lurking under the surface.

Where you want to find something revelatory, you are presented with vignetted takes that feel like rushed off afterthoughts between movie viewings on a long international flight. It’s like if Seth Godin wrote about basketball. The first half of the book speaks in recycled locker room talk that anyone who played high school sports will be well familiar with. It’s the rah-rah fare of “give your blood, sweat and tears to the game and the game will give back to you.” Where you are hoping for a deep cut or a behind closed doors anecdote of a private chat with Phil Jackson, you get a rearranged version of something your high school jayvee coach told you.

The most interesting part of the book is the second half which focuses on Kobe’s discussion of “his craft.” Core NBA fans will be familiar with most of Kobe’s inspiration and thoughts on his competition, but it’s still enjoyable to hear the specifics of how he approached particular matchups. He riffs on the career arcs of KD, LeBron, James Harden and others who came up behind him. There are some solid bits in their about how he led Team USA to gold medal glory.

The Shaw-Kobe “feud” is presented the way it’s been told ever since the two publicly reconciled a few years ago. Kobe goes on about how the “beef” was fabricated by Shaw and himself to keep the other players on edge and carry their weight. I always felt the alleged rift was more Hollywood fiction than the media presented it as. They were just too good and dominate together to believe that they would actually be warring. Needless to say, there is no shade thrown at Shaq.

The best anecdote for me was when he was discussing infamous and self-proclaimed “Kobe-stopper” Ruben Patterson. Of course he called out the red flag waving nature of Patterson’s claim, but he offered up an interesting counter. Kobe confessed that Patterson was making the claim in order to drive up his contract value heading into free-agency. Kobe said had Patterson approached Kobe privately and asked for him to make a statement along the lines of “Ruben is the best defender in the NBA,” he would have done it. However, Patterson’s mistake was in taking his “Kobe-stopper” moniker to the press before consulting Kobe. Hence the Mamba was intent on destroying him. That story alone probably adds the most nuance to the true psychology of the Mamba mentality. It’s a little bit Godfather and a lot of parts Kill Bill. Kobe wants to be remembered as the “thinking assassin.” Einstein with a silencer.

The books closing seconds feel rushed off. Kobe attempts a pivot and shot at the buzzer by hoisting the notion that his life and career in basketball was all one long runner to his future as a storyteller and writer. He holds his Oscar in the air, still obsessed with trophies and tells the world that he will bring the Mamba Mentality to his storytelling.

There is something overcompensating about Kobe’s whole late career bravado. His insistence on building up his own legend. His highlights, stats and championships speak for themselves. Perhaps it’s just his competitive spirit thirsting to campaign and win over the remaining doubters. Maybe it’s his reaction to the social media era of sports and especially the NBA now, where all the stars are living brands, crafting their own narratives at the height of their powers. It will be interesting to follow Kobe deeper into his post-NBA life. I can’t help but feel there is something fueling this Mamba Mentality that maybe Kobe himself doesn’t even understand yet. I hope he keeps trying to define it.

Top athletes have never been great at framing up and putting their mentality into perspective beyond the cliches. So here is my challenge to Kobe the storyteller: Tell us something we don’t know. Tell us something that only you could tell us. Find your voice beyond the meme. It was a pretty funny character and we all appreciated it. I know your competitive spirit will keep haunting and driving you. I hope it drives you to write something that surprises you. And scares you even. And when that day comes, I hope you will dare to expose that truth to the rest of us.

You’re welcome.