project #1 Rhetorical analysis

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    Adham Bakr

    The newest circulated Nike commercial of 2018 is a modern artifact whose rhetor is

    Colin Kaepernick, a legendary resistant or infamous risk-taker depending on one’s perspective. The receptivity of the slogan “Just Do It” being advertised through Kaepernick, a man who was cause for controversy when he kneeled down during the national anthem, depends on the viewer’s position on the greater contextual matter. However, the essence of staying true to one’s beliefs or values presented by Kaepernick remains consistent with the theme of the commercial, so his resilience despite all odds against him makes him believable and trustworthy. His experience with backlash and sacrifice, and his obvious background as an athlete, serve as reasonable qualifications. Although his credibility may depend on the reaction of the spectator, he is not a layman in light of politics and sports overlapping. His history with deviance and perseverance are enough for even those who disagreed with his symbolic actions to admit that he is appropriate to serve this message, although his very presence may be distorting to those adamantly against his past decisions and current rhetoric surrounding them.

    The intended audience that Kaepernick is addressing is primarily athletes with the desire to advance in their field, prompted by the Nike brand, but it could be anyone who has a dream by extension of the broad motto. Sports transcends age (of course being elderly has its limitations), gender (more or less depending on location), education (in certain contexts), and position of power, so this artifact is decently open-ended, but even more so since Nike indirectly attracts non-athletes for its attraction as streetwear. The values Kaepernick shares with the audience are not shying away from failure, never settling for mediocre, and avoiding comparison. Interestingly, none of Kaepernick’s words pay mind to who he is. There is constant referral to other known athletes who started from the bottom, balanced by regular people who the audience can more intimately relate to. The assumption that the viewer knows who Kaepernick is lends itself to his presence speaking for itself. He knows what it’s like to be disheartened by society and crucified for making a statement. People can apply this to their own lives even if it’s a much smaller reflection of disappointment. The audience can have a multitude of realities and subjective viewpoints, so the politics Kaepernick is playing into is not linear or precise. The notion of motivation can resonate with anyone, but considering he explicitly denounced injustice, then we understand Nike’s alliance, and for whatever reason the viewer finds this problematic, a divide is possible and even inevitable. One who found his expression distasteful might find Nike to be politicizing something that is supposed to be neutral and non-partisan.

    Kaepernick’s character based solely on the commercial exudes poise and his narration is articulate which is very appealing to the audience who is also captivated by the visuals. Outside marketing, he is also someone who speaks out against real issues, which for many people is admirable. This certainly helps Nike attract consumers and in general spread the message to simply take a chance in life.

    The context of this address, with Kaepernick walking us through, will of course remind us of events that had everyone talking about Kaepernick in the first place. But within the commercial, we see the realities that have to do with physical disabilities, refugee status, being visibly Muslim, and the list goes on. These windows open up to an even greater multitude of conversations that are just as rich and charged as the one Kaepernick started himself. Not only did the commercial air on television of course, but Youtube’s platform allows for it to be played and shared at anytime, making it timeless at least in its resourcefulness. It, of course, deals with contemporary realities that regularly flood our timelines on social media and become the topic of discussion between both friends and in classrooms. Our non-stop access to the digital makes this long-lasting in its use of space, but temporarily attention-seizing considering the expiration of sensationalism and frequent demand for new content. Given the variety of social issues it deals with, it does promise a longer length of relevance than most commercials. Not only are these social issues pressing for Kaepernick because of the very story behind his limelight, but basic human empathy allows him and all of us to understand the difficulty in many people’s circumstances who still manage to not only make it by their standards, but excel on a global level. This is very moving to those who have to encounter way less obstacles, and may still come up with excuses to not pursue harder. These issues are very large and can seem abstract to many, so their urgency depends on one’s environment and relationship to them. However, the slogan “Just Do It”, signals a sense of immediacy, so even if the whirlwinds of life feel like a handicap, the audience is reminded that self-doubt is the worst of them all.

    Because of both the broad and precise aspects the commercial accomplishes, there are little limitations besides the mentioned opposition to Kaepernick, and maybe even Serena William due to the recent talk of her butting heads with the referee and later media. The medium definitely profits from easy circulation. Instant sharing and rapid viewership can thank the internet. The message is clear: Don’t give up and don’t second-guess yourself. How it’s told is designed through the art of video production, profound soundbites, and aesthetically pleasing cinematography. All of these have the purpose to keep the viewer captivated.

    Kaepernick’s address works because people have already focused the lens on him before. In this commercial, he gains interest from the audience for simply being him and at the same time sits back to tell other peoples’ stories. It also shouldn’t be taken for granted that Nike already has momentum on its own. Using a celebrity gives it that much more of a push. The final words are powerful and tie the commercial together, “Don’t ask if your dreams are crazy. Ask if they’re crazy enough.” These words are chosen because they’re familiar, people often question themselves by wondering if they’re a bit foolish for aspiring to be what they want. By concluding the commercial this way, Kaepernick gets into our subconscious and replaces the insecure voice in our head trying to convince us to set boundaries for ourselves. He answers the crippling question by redirecting it. This is what I find the most crucial because it serves the overall purpose which is to get people to continue striving for success. And the message doesn’t just get to that final point arbitrarily, every interval of the commercial gives us a reason to persevere. The entire commercial is about reframing how we think. It begins with “Don’t” and is followed with an alternative imperative. As an example, “Don’t settle for linebacker, or homecoming queen. Do both.” The clarity of Kaepernick’s statements and the quality of the video itself are enticing. Without a doubt, these sort of technical aspects play a big role in satisfying viewers.

    Kaepernick being a celebrity and having been called, at the least, crazy for kneeling during the national anthem provides the ethos for this commercial. Since the whole didactic message behind the commercial is to do what you think is best, even if it seems outlandish to both the world and yourself, he is the appropriate person to deliver it. There’s not much use of logos verbally, but the use of real professional athletes who accomplished a lot in their lifetime could serve as realistic examples of the message proving to be true. Pathos is probably the most present element of this commercial, since it showcases shots of a young boy with no legs participating in wrestling competitions and a woman in a wheelchair playing basketball. Those sort of images evokes an emotional appeal. The ethos and pathos work well together, and while the logos is lacking, it doesn’t hurt the persuasive performance of the commercial that much. The motivational clips are arranged with a narrative voiceover and have a consistent call to action throughout. Including facts or statistics might have thrown the vibe off, but Kaepernick does mention how one soccer player made it at the age of 16. Using real stories fills in the gap of reporting more official and organized information. Telling the audience at what age is it possible to make it big certainly can get them to push their own limits. People often “dehumanize” professional athletes and categorize them into a separate box of talent, unattainable for the average person, when the reality is, these people are just like anyone else. The difference probably has more to do with work ethic and intensity of passion. This can encourage the audience to adopt those characteristics.

    Overall, the rhetor, Colin Kaepernick, accomplishes his purpose. He has the potential to persuade his intended audience because he himself knows what it means to be shut down and use that to amplify his efforts. While there are many people who disagree with Kaepernick as a person, and may consequently refuse to acknowledge the point of this commercial, there is still a lot of vibrant support for his endeavors, and even in possible absent of that, this commercial alone has people trying to live by the words he spoke.


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