The Power of the Surprising Twist in Storytelling

Nike Homecoming Queen.JPG

In September this year Nike threw down the gauntlet with a dazzling 2-minute piece of storytelling that stars Colin Kaepernick (and his voice over) and highlights the achievements of Serena Williams as the most superb athlete of her time.

It's a video full of inspiring surprising twists.

It also highlights several other people who have made incredible achievements as athletes - with the focus on people who are not just athletes but roles models who've not just pushed the envelope but shredded it.

The surprising twist is a technique that masterful storytellers use to tell superb "change hearts and minds" stories.

Storytelling coach Bobette Buster who's book "Do Story: How to tell your story so the world listens" (which I devoured in one afternoon) shares it like this in her Medium blog “Some advice from Hollywood: The 10 Principals of Storytelling.”

"Juxtapose: Take two ideas, images, or thoughts and place them together. Let them collide. Remember German philosopher, Friedrich Hegel, here: That in posing two opposing ideas, a whole new idea is created (thesis + antithesis = synthesis). This tool wakes up your audience, and is the root of all successful stories."

The Nike ad does this brilliantly. Here's my takeaway:

>> Kaepernick may never play professional football again. He might instead become a full-time advocate. Nike's cool with that. 

Note: as of December 22, 2018 this video has been seen over 27 million times on

>> This video has some of the usual suspects of athletic super-stardom but it also focuses youth, people of color, women, people with tough handicaps (like the amazing young wrestling champion), and those who've overcome the incredible hardship of war.

>> The homecoming queen. I'll leave it at that not to ruin the surprise if you haven't seen it. It made me cry. Actually the whole video made me cry. It's that good, that profound. 

>> This is a video for the world, not for US major league football fans who are offended by players who take a stand by not standing. 

Yes there are those who think Nike is biting the hand that feeds them, but in a fascinating blog by marketing guru Bernadette Jiwa I learned it's estimated that of Nike’s $35 billion in annual revenue, $20 billion is generated overseas. Two-thirds of Nike consumers are under 35 years old.

If you're going as a speaker try better connecting with your audience through a juxtapose about yourself, your work, or someone you feature in your talk. 

Through surprise you can move them and give them powerful "aha" moments to see the world in new ways. 

We need a cadre of brilliant storytellers to get this world choosing biking, walking and public transit. Will you become one of them? How can you bring a surprising twist into your own storytelling?