Sport Changes Everything: Mo Daoud Heads to Chicago to Get Imagery for Nike’s New Campaign

Feb 13, 2020
Photographer Spotlight

Put yourself in this scenario: you’ve just landed a job with a global — like, with a capital “G” — brand and you’re ready to get to work. Come shoot day, you find out that you’re asked to shoot something that's difficult to capture. So, what do you do? Well, when the client is Nike, you take all the help you can get and, for lack of a better phrase, just do it.

I started working for Nike around ten years ago when an art director friend of mine asked me for a favor by shooting a hang tag that they had designed. I was very confused and perplexed and really didn’t know what to do. Then, he gave me some great advice by saying, ‘shoot it like you would one of your portraits.’ Strangely, that resonated with me and I managed to get something interesting looking. A few more little assignments followed and, next thing you know, my name was passed around and more work flowed through.

Mo Daoud has delivered a smorgasbord of fantastic work to Nike over the past decade. Because of this, agency Wieden + Kennedy contacted the New York-based photographer to cover a unique event for the iconic sporting brand.

Since I've shot a lot of work for Nike, such as sneakers, athletes, and installations, Eloise Murphy at Wieden + Kennedy knew of me and reached out about my availability.

Mo Daoud Shoots Chicago Sports Culture for Nike

The Chicago shoot was scheduled to happen three days later to coincide with certain events. I was sent a concept design deck to review.

Less than a week after receiving W+K’s pitch, Mo flew to the Windy City to complete the assignment, which was part of Nike’s “Sport Changes Everything” campaign. Based on a commercial that talks about Chicago's storied sporting past, Mo’s charge was to get imagery of the renovated diner in the ad, the Nike-built court adjacent to the diner, and a Q&A hosted by Chicago native and NBA All-Star Anthony Davis.

Mo Daoud Shoots Chicago Sports Culture for Nike

The ask was to capture beauty shots of the diner interior and exterior that showcase the space as well as capture details of memorabilia, signs, branding, and food packaging. In addition, there was a need to capture a viewing party, a local basketball game, and an event with Anthony Davis.

In spite of the hectic nature of the shoot, Mo was effusive in his praise of W+K for the way they mixed initial assistance with a subsequent hands-off approach. Additionally, Mo’s years of experience with time-crunched shoots means he doesn’t complain, he just gets his work done.

Wieden + Kennedy are great! They make sure you get everything you need from a production standpoint, give you a lot of guidance creatively, and then set you free to do your thing. The work experience is very personable as well. I know they were very happy with the results and that they thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent together.

Mo Daoud Shoots Chicago Sports Culture for Nike

These turnaround times have become very standard, at least for me and my clients. Over the years, I've grown accustomed to hopping on a plane, shooting, and going right back home.

Even still, this schedule was pretty crazy, with the sheer variety of requirements forcing Mo to spend his time wisely. During a 12-hour day one, Mo had to cull imagery of all kinds, from all angles, at all times of day.

I landed in Chicago at noon, went straight to the location, and started shooting the viewing party event that was happening in the parking lot and on the basketball court. I primarily shot from high up in a scissor lift to capture the court graphics.

Mo Daoud photographs a Nike event on Chicago sports culture

We stopped shooting after sunset, regrouped, and waited for the diner to close. Then, we documented the interior of and details within the diner.

Chicago is a world-famous town, thanks in no small part to its food scene. One of the iconic meals of the city is its own spin on a hot dog, an image of which you can see below. When you’re running around taking pictures all day, you tend to get hungry. Though Mo was offered a dog to tide him over, the health conscious photographer politely declined. 

In order to manage the workload that we have with travel, carrying equipment, long hours, and crazy turnaround times, it’s really important to keep yourself in good physical health and make sure you eat well. There's nothing worse than being on the road shooting and just eating junk food. 

That’s especially true when your first shoot day doesn’t end until the early morning. After the briefest of sleeps, Mo and his team were back at it before sunrise to tie up some loose ends. Thankfully, there was enough of a time gap for the photographer and his cohorts to reset before the final part of the project, the Anthony Davis event. Good news, bad news time: the good news is that the AD session started a bit late, so Mo had a little extra time to return to the diner, where the talk took place. The bad news is that, because the Q&A ran long, Mo had to sprint to O’Hare to catch his flight home.   

Call time the following morning was around 5:30 a.m. We set the lift to the correct position and waited for sunrise. We captured all the exterior shots of the court again in the morning light and did a couple of pick up shots inside the diner that we missed the night before. We had enough time to head back to hotel, eat, check out, and return to capture the Anthony Davis event, which was running a tad late.

The brief at the event was to focus on the high school kids and their reactions. The diner was full of kids, press, and various people from Nike, so there was definitely an air of excitement. However, I think those teenagers were trying to play it cool, like they’ve seen it all before, so their reactions were somewhat muted. If it was me, I would have been screaming out loud!

Mo Daoud Shoots Chicago Sports Culture for Nike

At some point, my producer texted me across the diner during the event and reminded me that I had a flight to catch.

Now, you’d think that making the plane and getting home would mark the end of the stressful portion of the shoot. Not so, however, and this is where Mo’s experience with quick turnarounds really comes in handy. Once he got back to New York, Mo sent W+K an initial batch of shots. Shortly thereafter, he delivered everything asked of him to a very satisfied client.

After a mad dash to the airport to get back to NYC, I sent a few select shots back to the client the next day and sent all the deliverables back to them within the following 24 hours.

Mo’s work will be used for a variety of purposes, including “press, web and internal reviews, and documentation for W+K and Nike.” Though he can pinpoint why his work has led to Nike coming back to the veteran photographer for more than a decade, Mo emphasizes that the experience he provides is just as important to his marketability. Makes sense, then, that he's back in Chicago now shooting Nike's installations during the NBA's All-Star Weekend. 

I think my work is clean and graphic with attention to detail, but it’s not just about the work itself. I try and make it as easy as possible for the client. I think they appreciate the dependability — I can be trusted to jump on plane last minute, travel around the world, and get the shot. No matter what, ‘Mo will deliver,’ and I make sure that we always over-deliver!


Executive Producer, W&K: Krystle Mortimore
Producer, W&K: Eloise Murphy 
Design Lead, W&K: Michael Rosenau
Studio Manager, Mo Daoud Photo: Miriam Abrahams

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