By Jenna Marina Lee
University of Central Florida
Nike’s inspiring Dream Further commercial that captured hearts worldwide ahead of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup starts with a simple phrase: “Hey, you ready?”
An advertising and radio-television double major and former and former women’s soccer player, Katie McCain ’07 has been ready for this particular moment in her career — as lead producer behind the ad — since she was a child.
Her role in the production combines the two things she has loved most since she was 9 years old — soccer and storytelling. McCain became enamored with filmmaking after attending a summer video production camp in between her soccer camp schedule. Soon after, she borrowed her father’s video camera and began to create her own videos centered around her friends and soccer teammates with the goal of making them all laugh and cry.
After graduating from UCF and spending a decade working for various production and advertising companies in Orlando and Los Angeles, she moved to Portland, Oregon, in 2017 to join Wieden+Kennedy advertising agency for her dream job — producing commercials for Nike.
McCain, who was a decorated four-year letterwinner and defender on the Knights’ soccer team from 2003 to 2006, has been involved in some of Nike’s most popular ads as of late. She describes her role as a bit like being a captain, nurturing and facilitating the visuals and script through her work with the film’s director, editor, visual-effects personnel, musicians and crew.
“I try to put the best players on the field in regards to the creative team to execute the idea, and then make sure everyone gets the support they need to play their best and work well together,” she says. “The best productions are the ones where it doesn’t feel like work and where everyone is proud of what we’re creating.”
Which was certainly the case for this commercial.
How does it feel to have played a part in this ad’s creation?
My blood, sweat and tears definitely went into my work. To me, it feels like a bit of a love letter to all aspiring 10-year-old girls. I was a kid with really big dreams — a confident, cocky kid that thought she could do anything. So, it’s been a bit surreal to help make a film that inspires and motivates people as this one does. I feel so fortunate to be given this opportunity, to be able to produce a film with such a powerful message.
What do you think about the response the film has received?
It’s been awesome! We set out to make an epic soccer film for Nike that was as good, if not better, than the previous Nike soccer films. Nike has a legacy of long-form viral advertisements that have incredible production value, super star athletes, and inspiring narrative. The fact that Nike saw the value in creating something of this caliber for women’s soccer blows my mind. I’ve had former teammates from my youth soccer team, my club team and my UCF teammates and coaches message me about how inspired they are by the film. It’s like a time capsule has been opened from my youth soccer-playing days.
How did the ad make you feel as a viewer the first time you saw it?
I cried when I saw the first rough cut. I also cried at the casting when we met the young girl who played the lead in the spot. The film is personal and emotional to me; I feel connected to the narrative, the characters and the athletes. I’m able to see a bit of my own story in it. I was 14 when the U.S. women’s national team won the 1999 World Cup. I have followed the team since I was a little kid. Soccer gave me so much. It taught me how to work hard, embrace adversity, be a leader, to persevere, work together, and that you’re only as good as your teammates. As a producer, I use all those tools almost every day. Soccer seriously set me up for success in my career.
What was the most challenging aspect or moment of the shoot?
Production is always challenging, no matter the client or the film. There are no easy jobs. If the job is easy, it isn’t being pushed to be the best film it can be. Due to the scale of this, it was a marathon project. We all had to dig in and put our heads down. The machine had to keep moving or we weren’t going to stay on schedule and make the launch date on the Champions League Final.
What was the most rewarding aspect or moment of the shoot?
The moment I met the lead girl in the spot, I knew she was the right selection for the role. Seeing her perform on set, and being a part of her experience was amazing. She lit us all up every day with her spirit, smile, work ethic and love for the game. I can’t wait to see where she goes in life and what becomes of her dreams.
You also served the same role in Nike’s Dream Crazy ads with Serena Williams, Colin Kapernick and fellow alum Shaquem Griffin ’16. Why do you think those ads and this World Cup ad are striking a chord like they are?
I like this quote from the co-president and chief creative officer of W+K, Colleen DeCourcy: “Sometimes, when everything’s right, something or someone can come along with a thing that is so simple, that taps into the bottomless reservoir of want in humanity, and the world goes crazy. We love that feeling. We believe in that feeling. THAT is lightning in a bottle.”
What do you think you’ll always remember about your experience with these campaigns?
When you are in it and working so hard on production, you lose track of how awesome it is to get to make very creative, high-level work that people actually care about, talk about, watch and share — work that inspires people. What I’ll always remember is how we made something with “Dream Crazy” that shook the world for a few days. With Nike, we helped create a conversation beyond advertising. We opened hearts and minds all over the world for a minute, in an era where you’re served content all day long, and it’s hard to catch someone’s attention at all.
What is a typical day like for you in your job?
Every day is a bit different. In between projects, things are usually a bit more mellow. Usually I’m in meetings talking about creative ideas with my team, or budgeting and researching, and meeting new directors and partners I want to team up with on future projects. When I’m on a production it’s a bit like wrangling chaos — figuring out how to do the impossible, negotiating, scheduling, managing people, making sure the creative team and the client are happy, and the work is getting the support it needs. This year, I was traveling between Los Angeles and Barcelona to shoot and edit for the World Cup film.
What’s the one thing you need to survive in your profession?
It’s actually a couple of things. An aptitude for organization and the necessity to compartmentalize and prioritize tasks. A sensitivity to everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, and the ability to optimize their value in order to bring everyone together to accomplish a goal, deliver a film. Jobs of this scale can be daunting, so you have to prioritize the work that needs to be accomplished each day and keep the team focused on getting through key milestones to keep the project on track. I work in a high-pressure, creative industry where everyone has an opinion, an idea or an approach. My job is to harness everyone’s strengths, combine greatness, to make one thing, together. Personally, you must know your limits, and when to take a break in order to recharge your mind and body to be able to have the strength to produce the next project.
How did your experience at UCF prepare you for your career now?
Before deciding to pursue an advertising degree at UCF, I had no experience working on commercials. I had only worked on broadcast production. My dad was worried I was never going to be able to support myself making films, so he encouraged me to consider an advertising degree and study marketing so I could take my production background and make commercials. I decided to pick up a double major in advertising, and also minored in marketing and business to accompany my broadcast radio/TV production degree, which I was already pursuing through the Nicholson School of Communication and Media.
I grew up really connected to the ads and the message that Nike was putting out in the world and identified with the brand. I feel very grateful to have landed at Wieden+Kennedy, which is considered to be one of the best advertising agencies in the world. To be given the honor to work on Nike at W+K is a bit unreal to me, especially during a time where the brand is telling amazing stories and really affecting culture with their marketing.
What is your best memory as a Knight?
In 2004 we had a great soccer season. We beat Florida State, Florida, FAU, Miami, won our conference, and went to the NCAA Tournament. We were one of the top teams on the East Coast. I enjoyed being a part of the team, sharing many moments with my teammates that I will never forget. I cherish my amazing friends from my UCF soccer days. I still enjoy reading about the advancements UCF is making in many fields. And who doesn’t love to watch their football team crush it?!