The 12-year-old, 200-pound star of a Nike ad touting “greatness” during the Olympics said he’s been surprised by critics who found the commercial exploitative.
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Nathan Sorrell said he has received an outpouring of support by people inspired by the ad, but recently learned others have not reacted so positively.
“I’m starting to learn, even if somebody completely physically fit did that commercial, they would still get, as they say, haters,” he told TODAY’s Matt Lauer Monday.
In the ad, the 5’ 3'' pre-teen slowly jogs down an open road, looking toward the camera, panting and sweating, while the voiceover declares “greatness is no more unique to us than breathing. We’re all capable of it. All of us.”
Sorrell said he has found inspiration even in the ad’s detractors.
“That just motivates me more because I want to get off my feet and do extra time for those people that have enough time to be able to sit there and write mean comments on the internet, when they could be doing something like I am,” he said.
Nike selected Sorrell after the Ohio boy auditioned for the part. “I really like Nike so I thought it would be a really cool opportunity,” he said.
Shooting the physically demanding commercial was difficult, but “it was just so fun that I didn’t care how hard it was,” Sorrell said.
Online, many fans of the ad responded with encouragement, while other reviewers were more harsh.
"Love this commercial. However, this is nothing more than shrewd advertising," wrote one YouTube commenter. "Nike put out a casting call basically looking for an out of shape kid and then they made him jog 70 yards 55 times to get the shots they needed."
Some made a point about the fact that Sorrell was a hired actor, not an actual jogger. "Nike Uses Fat Kid to Sell Shoes, Nation Rejoices," read the headline on a Jezebel.com opinion piece.
Donny Deutsch, chairman of the advertising agency Deutsch, Inc., called the ad a stroke of “brilliant, brilliant advertising.”
He told Lauer that Nike has had a history of inclusivity in its marketing campaigns and by featuring Sorrell, “a guy who just looks like all of us — we’re all imperfect in one way or another — it’s inspirational.”
“If this gets one kid off the couch, that’s what it’s about,” he said.
Sorrell, meanwhile, said he’s still trying to adjust to all the attention the commercial has received.
“Oh my gosh, I just couldn’t believe it. Still to this day, this minute, it just still hasn’t completely set in yet,” he said.
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