In Latest Olympic Push, Nike Releases First Refugee Athlete Ad

Nike is stepping up its collaboration with the Olympic Refuge Foundation, releasing a new ad starring boxer Cindy Ngamba and other refugee athletes.

Ngamba signed with Nike in March and is the first IOC Refugee Olympic Team member to do so. She narrates a powerful spot focusing on the runners, cyclists, martial artists, wrestlers, weightlifters and canoeists on this year’s team.

“You want to know where I’m from?” she asks the camera. “I’m from losing my flag, my country and my home, but never giving up.”

The 25-year-old ends by saying, “That’s where we are really from. Now, watch where we are going.”

Ngamba left Cameroon, where she was born, at age 11. She lives and trains in the U.K. and is a three-time national boxing champion and a coach. While she has lived in England for 15 years, she is still fighting for a visa and U.K. citizenship and has faced deportation threats.



Wieden + Kennedy created the spot.

Nike says it is helping displaced people find “community and a sense of belonging through sport.” It will also provide uniforms for the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, and for the Refugee Athlete Scholarship Program.

The company first announced its partnership with the Olympic Refugee Foundation last year, paying particular attention to women athletes.

"Nike is focused on expanding play and sport for girls," said Vanessa Garcia-Brito, Nike's chief social and community impact officer, in the initial announcement. "Girls enter sports later and drop out earlier -- at twice the rate of boys. Our support of the Olympic Refuge Foundation aims to change that for displaced girls. With a shared belief that all kids should have access to play, we're committed to removing barriers by providing displaced girls in Paris with strong, caring mentors and coaches who can empower them with a lifetime of confidence."

The refugee-focused work represents just a small portion of Nike’s Olympic efforts. Nike executives have promised that sponsorship of the Olympic Games in Paris will be its biggest ever, with the largest media spend. Sponsored athletes include American sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson and Kenyan marathoner Eliud Kipchoge.

"This will be the most investment and the biggest moment for Nike in years," Heidi O'Neill, president of consumer, product and brand at Nike, told Reuters last month.

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