Nike’s “Fast or Last” commercial which debuted in 2012 rocked sports networks across Comcast Sports Network and ESPN channels alike. Being the first of its kind, Nike wanted to take the sports viewer’s world by storm, introducing a new lacrosse product line and brand of Nike products to a newer audience. By 2012, lacrosse was beginning to emerge on TV stations and across most of the east coast United states; ESPN being one of the very first networks to pick up live coverage of the sport, but only for short spurts once a week. Because the sport at the time was very new to being broadcasted on television, Nike had wanted to first introduce its new product line in this commercial by explaining the core basics of what the sport was in a humorous and insightful matter, while maintaining a sort of seriousness to prove just how incredibly serious and hardcore the sport is.
Starring Ryan Powell, a four-time All-American lacrosse player and assistant head coach of the Syracuse Men’s lacrosse team, the commercial focuses on him explaining the seriousness of the sport with ferocity, humor and sheer bluntness. The semiotics can be clearly seen with the two players on the field ready to face off under stadium lights, geared in the new Nike pads, helmet and stick. This is a clear message to the viewer that this is their product, and Ryan Powell is the very essence of the sport itself. Powell goes on to state that the sport “isn’t meant to cute” and that one must meet a sort of criteria in order to be able to play the sport. Although it isn’t directly mentioned by Powell, it can be derived from his speech that one also needs to meet a certain criteria in order to be able to play the sport, as well as wear their product. If you can’t meet the criteria of being “fast”, you can’t play the sport, therefore, not being able to wear their product. The commercial itself is very blunt but is driving home the fact that they are now selling lacrosse products, and also want to interest newcomers to the sport.
Nike also focuses on a male audience in this commercial because their target audience is prominently male on ESPN, also, at the time women’s lacrosse was not as prominent as men’s lacrosse in 2012 as it was just entering high schools as a sport. Women’s lacrosse would not follow as a prominent high school sport until 2013.
During the time the commercial was aired, Nike had been one of the first to ever make a lacrosse product commercial without entirely focusing on the actual product. What their goal was was to attract people to the newness of the sport, and know who to buy from if they became interested by their commercial. However, due to the newness of the sport to television and the actual product line Nike used for lacrosse in 2012 being not of decent quality, Nike soon realized that another commercial like it would not meet the desired requirements for product sales. Other companies like Reebok and Under Armor would follow in Nike’s footsteps, storming the lacrosse product market. Nike wouldn’t rekindle their now massive product like until the following year when they acquired STX, a lacrosse product manufacturer which hails out of Baltimore, MD. What can be learned from Nike’s lacrosse commercial and other companies which followed, “You’re either fast, or you’re last.”