Nike gets naked in new viral video

Typically, when I see a company resorting to lots of bare skin and punny risque jokes to attract consumers, I shield my eyes in either disgust, or discomfort, depending on the situation. It's not a marketing strategy I'd suggest. But a new "viral" video from Nike (NKE) is make the rounds on Twitter, blogs and email lists (it even popped up in a bike activism list to which I subscribe) and has me charmed and giggling.

The video, which depicts the "Bear Butte" running camp -- in which world-class runners train naked (bare butts are, indeed, shown, but the video blurs out the runners' other private parts) -- is designed as a marketing ploy for Nike's new Nike Free 5.0 running shoe, meant to make your foot feel as if it's running barefoot. And it is certainly obvious that many retakes were necessary to avoid having U.S. champion runners burst into laughter as they deliver lines like, "I let it all hang out," and "as we like to call it, super-natural running."

By poking fun at Nike employees themselves, and not at the runners, and somehow completely avoiding any sexual overtones (the one couple shown, Kara and Adam Goucher, are married), the video manages to balance delicately on the line between funny and scandalous, and I'm left at the end of the video wanting to buy a pair of Nike Free. It's brilliant, and the perfect marketing for its time.

Darren Novall at CNBC calls Nike "hands down," "not even close" the "best Fortune 500 company in the world at viral video these days"; Todd Wasserman at BrandFreak says the spot "reveals the naked truth about Nike: The company isn't as humorless as many of us thought." I predict it will do just as it intended; keep the shoe at the top of runners' minds and headed to replace their old shoes with something "super natural."

To see all 10 of Sarah Gilbert's top 10 best and worst naked advertising campaigns, click here.

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