During the Olympics, there’s a secondary contest, one that usually results in gold, lots of it, for the winner: the most memorable ad.

A top contender this year is one produced by Nike, which depicts a lone runner approaching the camera from a distance. As the runner comes into focus, the voiceover says that greatness “is not some precious thing … we’re all capable of it. All of us.”

With that, the runner is upon us, an overweight boy, sweating profusely, running through his exhaustion.

The star of the ad, part of Nike’s “Find Your Greatness” campaign, is a 12-year-old boy named Nathan Sorrell from London, Ohio, his local newspaper, the Herald Record reported.

Apparently Nike sent out a casting call in Nathan’s school, part of the ad campaign is to feature regular people from different “Londons” around the world. The 5-foot-3-inch, 200 pound Nathan auditioned and won the part.

He’s also won quite a few fans.

A friend told me she cried watching him. Others, have posted cheers on You Tube, “Go Nathan, go!”

“I love Nathan. I hope he runs until he feels awesome about himself. I hope he inspires other kids to run,” wrote Hanna Brooks Olsen on the blog BlissTree

But the reviews are not all good. The BlissTree post came with a survey in which the vast majority responded that the ad was exploitative. Other YouTube comments have criticized the company for cashing in on Nathan’s health problem.

In fact, Nathan told the Herald Record that during one of the first takes, he threw up in a ditch.

On Jezebel, Lindy West wrote a reaction titled “Nike Uses Fat Kid to Sell Shoes, Nation Rejoices.”

“Just getting up and running is not the solution to fat people’s ‘problems,’ because all fat people cannot just get up and run,” she writes. “… If American kids are gaining weight, it’s not because they’re just naturally lazy and they naturally don’t want to work out. There are systemic problems in our country-with processed food, poverty, [terrible] school lunches, corn subsidies … that are ours to fix, not that kid’s.”

The experience, though, did convince Nathan to try to lose weight. He’s said that if he does, Nike has pledged to return to film him. They said it would reinforce the “greatness” message.

What do you think?

Is the “Greatness” ad great? Is inspirational or exploitative?

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