By Theda Braddock
Nike is bringing football back to the streets. Or to the rues, if you will. This past week, the brand deployed its new worldwide « Play Free » strategy in France, with the help of Kylian M’Bappé, one of the hottest names in football today. The 18 year-old was recently the subject of much media coverage in the sports world, signing a 180M Euro transfer from Monaco to the capital’s team, Paris Saint Germain. The record deal was the largest in French history, and among the top on the international scene.
But, the player comes from humble beginnings, in the Parisian suburb of Bondy. To celebrate his arrival and push its new strategy, Nike offered to redesign the striker’s childhood field and host a football tournament for local players. « Play Bondy » is part of Nike’s new « Play Free » strategy, a campaign centered on appreciating the pleasures in playing the game itself. To transform the terrain, which had been neglected since the star honed his skills on the field, Nike turned to architecture studio laisné roussel and scenographist Midori Hasuike who gave it an abstract camouflage look to echo the area’s surrounding forest. Creative agency Yard, whose documentary on street football « Concrete Football » was recently released on Netflix, was called upon to organize and stage the operation. The agency specializes in all things urban culture, from music to sports, to art, and more, for younger generaitons.
Turning to one of the sport’s wealthiest players for the operation may seem like a strange move, but connecting the audience with M’Bappé’s beginnings makes sense. He was there, not to remind us of how much he makes now, but of how much he enjoys the game, to rejuvenate his childhood legacy, and to pass it along to the next generation of players. Nike, with its agency Yard, together showed fans that innocence is not lost, that we can and should « Play Free ».