Flag football inspires with Nike commercial
Flag teams up with Nike and the NFL to promote the sport
February 4, 2021
The lights brightened the field as the teams faced off. The marching band on the sidelines, ready to accompany the action. Any individual would see the game as an anticipated Alonso-Robinson showdown. But the game was a video shoot, and the girls, the stars.
In Oct. 2019, Nike began to sponsor the Robinson flag football team in an initiative to spread girls flag football across the United States. The sponsorship is a part of Nike’s collaboration with the NFL, which aims to provide a “total of $5 million in product to growing flag football within high school athletics.” Teams who are sponsored are provided with uniforms, socks and accessories, with Florida being the first state included in the process.
On a bright Sunday morning this January, the Knights and the Ravens met to film a national ad showcasing the partnership. From 9 am to 9 pm, they did take after take, replicating the game day dynamic with chants, chases down the field and camaraderie. A month later, the video was released online, amassing over one million views within 24 hours.
“We’ve done a lot of cool things…we’ve been to the Pro Bowl, we’ve played at the Bucs stadium…we’ve read a draft pick for the NFL,” head coach Joshua Saunders said. “But a Nike commercial that is going out to one million people in less than 24 hours, we haven’t done that.”
Robinson and Alonso are both Nike sponsees due to their success in the sport. Out of the past six state championships, the Knights have won five, including four class 1A titles. At the other end of Tampa, Alonso earned two 2A titles in 2018 and 2019. Both teams’ success has made them stars of the Florida flag football scene, and a strong model for promoting the sport.
Like they work hard on the field, the teams worked hard on the shoot, filming even the smallest of clips numerous times. The final video showcased clips of players in the locker room, on a bus, running down the field, posing and more.
“There’s a bus scene in the video where we’re doing a chant, we must’ve done that chant, I don’t know, 100 times,” Saunders said. “It took an hour and it was in the video for maybe three seconds…it was doing a lot for a little, but the end product was phenomenal.”
In response to rumors that the ad may be played at the Super Bowl – coincidentally featuring the Buccaneers and held in Tampa this year – Saunders commented “that is a rumor, I don’t know anything about that, it’s [the ad] doing well and it was on NFL network today and it’s gonna be on Nickelodeon for the next three days, I was told, but I have no idea.”
“I’m going to watch the commercials a little more intensely than I normally do,” he laughed.
The goal of the video was to encourage more girls varsity flag football teams across the country. Currently, only six states offer girls flag football at this level: Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada and New York. Nike hopes to alleviate the barriers of organizing teams with financial support; individuals can vote for the next state given aid here.
But the help doesn’t stop there. Nike is adapting their 11-Online program to feature drills and training for flag football athletes. Eventually, the program will feature female trailblazers in football through the Stronger Than One Series.
“I think that it is important to make videos like these because it brings awareness and promotes women in sports,” quarterback Sydney Hall (’22) said. “This video and Nike’s pledge will help allow young girls…to have more opportunities and be able to play flag football all across the country.”
The team wasn’t the only Robinson group in the video. The Marching Knights made an appearance, standing on the field in traditional half-time fashion. After attending the shoot for four hours and appearing in the final product for a few seconds, band members like Cameron Spence (’21) recapped the experience as time well spent.
“It was really amazing. It was the first time I had seen myself on TV at all and to have it with some of my closest friends was an experience I will never forget,” Spence said. “It was also really cool to be in an advertisement with such a fantastic message about female sports, I hope that the band contributed to the importance of the message.”
Instead of a trophy, the team was rewarded with overwhelming responses across the country, a reminder of the importance of sports. Many of those responses came from team alumni who now have children that play, and younger girls feeling inspired by the video. At the end of the day, it wasn’t the video or the gear that mattered–it was the message.
“We weren’t selling sneakers, we were selling hope and opportunity to kids around the country,” Saunders said.