The most memorable ad of the NFL postseason didn't even air during the Super Bowl. But Nike's spot for the Shox NZ running shoe has created a big buzz since it debuted during the conference championship games on Jan. 19. The ad—in which a streaker clad only in a long scarf and a pair of Shox darts across the field during an English soccer game, dodging bobbies—prompted calls and e-mails to Nike asking whether the incident was real, or whether the streaker had been superimposed on stock footage.
Here's the deal. The spot, conceived by Nike's ad agency Wieden+Kennedy, was filmed in December during a fourday shoot in a Southeast London soccer stadium (Millwall's home pitch). Actors played all roles: the players, the refs and the 300 fans—who were digitally reproduced to give the appearance of a larger crowd—and of course the streaker. Mark Bowden, 32, distinguished himself during filming, as he told the New York Post, by "screaming with pain" in the cold. Nike went with the streaker idea to show that "this shoe is lighter and more breathable than other models," says spokeswoman Beth Hegde.
The ad has drawn some complaints from the American Family Association—but it may be part of a trend. By coincidence, dimension, a Spanish clothing company, has a mirror-image spot in which a "streaker" is wearing clothes, while the players, refs, fans and bobbies are in the buff. The clothed one is Mark Roberts, 38, a real-life British streaker who bared his baubles during last year's Champions League soccer final.
This spate of commercial nakedness traces to 2001 when Yard Fitness, a training center in Hermosa Beach, Calif., produced a spot with a trash-talking playground hoopster whom opponents are reluctant to guard because he's wearing only a headband, glasses and hightops. The ad (tagline: Feel Comfortable in Your Own Skin) won awards and "caused quite a disturbance," says Troll Subin, Yard's president. "Some people thought we were crazy." The Yard spot has survived on e-mailed MPEGs, and the Nike ad seems destined for a long life. As one of the spot's English announcers says (in scripted commentary), "Oh, dear, that's an image [that's] going to stay with me a very long time."