Nike's 'Dream Further' campaign for 2019 World Cup highlights 'incredible momentum' of women's sports

Five hundred and fifty-two women from 24 different nations are under the global spotlight in the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, a quadrennial showcase of some of the best female athletes on the planet.

Being one of the largest apparel companies in the world, Nike has been a prominent voice in the lead-up to the tournament. In May, the company paid tribute not only to the defending World Cup champion, the U.S. women, but to girl athletes of all ages, sports and locations with its "Dream With Us" spot. On June 1, it took another step with "Dream Further," a short film starring 10-year-old California soccer player Makena Cooke, featuring cameos from 14 different World Cup teams and empowering the next generation of female talent.

The World Cup, however, isn't so much the reason for Nike's big push to promote women as it is a grand platform for doing so.

As Amy Montagne, Nike's VP and GM of global categories, told the company has been advocating for women in sports for more than four decades. It just happens to be time for the World Cup in an era when female representation has never drawn more support across the globe -- a perfect place for Nike to ramp up its efforts.

"There's incredible momentum around women's sports right now," Montagne said. "We're committed to using our brand as a catalyst. It's not just about Alex Morgan or Sam Kerr or other elite athletes. It's about the next generation."

Anyone who watched "Dream Further," which depicted the next generation moving hand-in-hand with the stars of today's game, could have picked up on the message. But Nike's current campaign, one of the largest it's ever rolled out in support of women athletes, isn't just about emotional TV spots. It all starts with "listening to our athletes, to what's important to them," Montagne said, and from there, Nike engineers not only inspiration but practical tools for uplifting girls across the globe.

For example, Nike specifically tailored custom kits for the 14 World Cup teams it is sponsoring at this year's tourney, complete with women-specific innovations, like inclusive bra sizing. It offers personalized workouts through its training club app. And it just recently unveiled "Dream Further" kids apparel, including its first-ever football shirt designed specifically for girls.

"It's the core of who we are and what we do," Montagne said. "We keep finding ourselves coming back to the message of 'Just Do It,'" -- a famous company slogan that Nike itself has adopted in its approach to promoting women in sports.

Part of the promotion, of course, does come through things as simple, albeit powerful, as ad campaigns.

Montagne recalls going to school with two-time World Cup champion Brandi Chastain, whose signature moment on the international stage was when she celebrated her game-winning penalty kick in the World Cup final against China at the Rose Bowl back in 1999 by ripping off her jersey and going to her knees in a Nike sports bra. That moment, Montagne said, inspired the generation that's playing for a world championship today. And the influence of empowering visuals is even more important for the generation to come.

Brandi Chastain after winning the 1999 World Cup, providing one of the more iconic moments in American soccer history. Getty Images

"They need to see it to be it," Montagne said.

Hence Nike's enlisting of everything from core ideals to celebrity partners to roll out "Dream Further," which Montagne said will expand beyond the World Cup -- to the WNBA and Chinese football league, among other places -- and marks "the start of the next phase of supporting these women." The campaign quietly got its official start with September 2018's "Dream Crazy," a two-minute short famously featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, then continued with February's "Dream Crazier," a women-centric message narrated by Serena Williams.

And as Montagne explained, it's as much about empowering more women as it is celebrating those already thriving.

"Being out here in Europe, we just sent out the Dutch national team from European headquarters, and they were telling us that not five years ago, they had 3,000 people watching them play," she said. "They had 30,000 a week ago."

Not only that, but Nike's found that "women are fueling the health and wellness lifestyle" -- something that obviously and positively influences both men's and women's athletics.

"If you go into a spin class or a boxing class," Montagne said, "it's usually filled with women."

It is Nike's goal, then, to maintain that reality. To empower. To encourage. And, at least in part, to ensure that, every four years, when the Women's World Cup rolls around, seeing female superstars in action is far from an unfamiliar sight.

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