The Science of Inspirational Web Videos

Adidas - All In header image.

Are certain types of videos more effective at driving social shares?

That’s the 5.6 billion dollar question facing marketers, and one Dr. Karen Nelson-Field sets out to answer in her book “Viral Marketing – The Science of Social Sharing” (2013).

Studying 800 videos over a two-year span, Nelson-Field discovered that personal triumph is the emotional trigger that most consistently drives social shares of video content. Even if they generate lower levels of emotional response in their audience, inspirational web videos clearly resonate with viewers, and prompt social sharing.

Despite these findings many marketers continue to gravitate towards humour and celebrity endorsements when creating video content – holdovers from traditional television advertising that require perfect execution to trigger the level of emotional response needed to drive shares.

Here are five inspirational video marketing campaigns that demonstrate the power of personal triumph:

Adidas – “All In”

The most well-known recent example of a brand using personal triumph as an emotional trigger is  Adidas’s 2011 “All In” campaign. Intercutting footage of everyday athletes with international stars like Derrick Rose, Lionel Messi, and Katy Perry(?), “All In” highlights the shared passion sport ignites in fans, showing viewers that “right this second, people are going all in, all around the world.” Set to Justice’s outstanding “Civilization”, “All In” is a triumphant ride through the accomplishments of athletes all over the world.

Microsoft – “Empowering”

While markedly different in approach, Microsoft also uses personal triumph effectively in their “Empowering” spot. Told from the vantage of Steve Gleason (a former football star with ALS who uses a Microsoft Surface with eye-tracking technology to speak), “Empowering” offers viewers a unique vantage on recent technological advancements and their impact upon people’s lives. Focusing on the human element of technology, the spot shows how Microsoft technology empowers people to accomplish feats that they never would have dreamed possible.

Nike – “The Jogger”

Developed for the London 2012 Summer Olympics, Nike’s “The Jogger” introduces us to Nathan Sorrell – a twelve year-old runner from London, Ohio. Shot from one single vantage using a motion control rig, Nathan gradually comes into focus as he jogs down a deserted country road.

The image of the overweight child struggling to keep up his pace coupled with the spot’s focus on “everyday greatness” struck a chord with viewers, generating millions of shares upon release. Though Sorrell admits that he wasn’t much of a runner when filming “The Jogger”, the positive reaction to the spot motivated him to make some lifestyle changes that have have since kept him in the spotlight.

Powerade – Nico’s Story

“Nico’s Story” tells the story of Nico Calabria – a nineteen year-old American born without a right hip or leg. Through home videos and images we see Nico’s story unfold, with his love of sport developing at a young age. This fun-loving child eventually grows into a determined young athlete who doesn’t let his disability prevent him from competing to the best of his ability.

Though Nico was also part of Powerade’s “There’s Power in Every Game” campaign for World Cup 2014, the views and shares generated by “Nico’s Story” have far surpassed those of Powerade’s more conventional spots.

Under Armour – “Misty Copeland – I Will What I Want”

To promote their “I Will What I Want” campaign Under Armour filmed a series of short films with female athletes. The most popular of these videos features Misty Copeland, a dancer with the American Ballet Theatre (ABT).

The video begins with a voiceover actor reading a rejection letter from a dance academy, spelling out all of the reasons Copeland has the wrong body to succeed as a dancer. The action then shifts to a highly-stylized depiction of a solo performance, with Misty showcasing her talents in the purest form as a member of the ABT. A powerful combination of personal triumph and female empowerment, the video has generated 6.5 million views, and currently has over 20,000 likes.


Boom Unit is a Waterloo video production company, specializing in creating broadcast quality video content. Interested in hiring a video production agency? Drop us a line at info@boomunitvideo.com to light the fuse!

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