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This post attempts to deconstruct the strategy behind Nike’s 2012 campaign; “Find Your Greatness”. It covers The Business Problem, The Market, The Person, The Solution and ends with The Execution.
Agency: Wieden+Kennedy (Portland, USA)
Time Period: July 1st – August 31st 2012
Situation: Nike Inc. has a goal of increasing sales of the Nike+Fuelband globally.
As a brand, Nike will officially sponsor kits/uniforms of multiple National Olympic federations (teams) competing during the 2012 Olympics.
SHORT BACKGROUND: NIKE INC.
Established forty nine years ago, Nike Inc. is a US-based, publicly traded multinational operating in 160 countries, across 6 continents, designing/marketing equipment and apparel for nearly every major competitive sporting activity. The brand’s 2013 sales topped $25 billion.
Born from “Track and Field” (athletics), the brand has grown to a commanding position in sporting culture, despite allegations of mass production in “sweat shops” (during the ’90s), Nike is often seen as the pinnacle of sporting authenticity.
Nike’s mission statement describes their unprejudiced nature toward the discipline:
“To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world.”
Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman famously said, “If you have a body, you are an *athlete.”
Arguably, the most valuable asset to Nike is its brand identity; the distinctly American themes of aggressive ambition and achievement are embodied in their most famous tag line “Just Do It” as well as the brand name itself, the source of which is “Νίκη” the Greek goddess of victory.
This defined identity is inherent in all communications and has contributed in positioning Nike as an industry leader.
Since 2000, Interbrand rank Nike’s brand value above that of the Sporting Goods sector average every year, reaching a peak of $17M in 2013 placing it 24th in the Global Top 100.
The organisation’s Sponsorship portfolio spans official leagues and teams on an international, domestic club and event level making their “Swoosh” logo one of the most recognised symbols of modern popular culture.
Whilst Nike continues to hold substantial market share in the product categories it has become synonymous with (i.e. recreational footwear), recent years have seen the brand evolve into the ‘Sporting Development’ category, best characterised by their 2006 venture into ‘wearable technology’; the “Nike+” product line.
The Nike+ FuelBand
Nike+ represents the brand’s foray into 21st century sport. With the emergence of an ever-more connected society, Nike stepped outside of its regular company (often sporting teams or institutions like the National Football League-NFL) and formed a strategic partnership with the consumer electronics giant Apple.
Like many of the brand’s innovations, Nike+ began within the ‘Running’ division. The application and appeal of Nike+ quickly grew larger than the running category and gave way to the Nike+ FuelBand in January 2012. A rubber wrist-accessory designed to be worn 24/7 providing the owner with a variety of anaerobic data which is instantly sharable to social networks through the Nike+ Online “FuelStream”.
The Nike+ FuelBand retails at approx. £130.
Nike the Elitist
It is a proven communications method that metaphorically painting world renowned figures in a brand’s logo will raise awareness and as a brand, Nike lean heavily on their endorsers.
Nike possess a substantial list of high profile figures who endorse the brand and/or products, in recent years the following are some of the most prevalent:
- Tiger Woods (PGA Most successful Golfer of all time)
- Lance Armstrong (Winner of the Tour De France Cycling event a record 7 times)
- Cristiano Ronaldo (until recently, valued as the most expensive soccer player of all time, at £80M)
- Roger Federer (Winner of 7 ATP Grand Slams and widely regarded as the greatest Tennis player of all time)
Despite being from a variety of differing fields, the overwhelming theme which is common in all of them is unrivaled, iconic success.
It is undeniable that a globally recognised icon can have a Halo Effect on a brand, but used as the primary and continuous strategy it has the potential to entrench the brand in a problematic area…
Ensuring that whenever he raises a trophy, Tiger Woods does so having played the round with Nike Golf clubs/attire, has a definite, but subliminal impact on a person’s mind-set. Connotations of –Nike- and –success- are fortified in people’s minds, but from a business perspective, how can Nike ensure that the $20M~ endorsement contract with Tiger Woods, has actually influenced golf club or shoe sales with the average golfer?
It could be argued that Tiger raising a PGA Tour trophy in his Nike attire does little for the product because it highlights sporting elitism, suggesting to be worthy of Nike products you must not only be a professional at your chosen sport, but also of world-class standard.
On approach to London 2012, the issue of “Nike the Elitist” presented a genuine problem to the goal of selling Nike+ FuelBands. The brand was the official sponsor of a number of athletics federations competing at the Games (USA, Russia, Germany, Ukraine, Estonia, Canada and Brazil). This means the arrival of the Olympic Games brought with it a specific and heavy Nike brand message “we sponsor the elite, the best of the best”.
Such a strong message minimises the connection with the cyclist who simply bikes to and from work every day or the football player who “only” plays on Sundays with his friends, it places a gulf between the Nike “swoosh” symbol and the everyman.
THE MARKET & THE PERSON (Understanding these builds the strategy)
In the lead up to this campaign, there are two primary factors which will have required a sound and deep understanding in order to configure the strategy toward the desired outcome, specifically these factors are; the “market” and the “person”.
The Market: Sporting Commercialism had turned into Sporting Realism
Sport by definition is competitive. The International Olympic Games Committee (IOGC) defines it as “activities which are based on physical athleticism or physical dexterity”, the very nature of sport is to compete, test and rank the varying levels of achievement into a hierarchy.
Vincent Lombardi, a renowned figure in western sport and officially named the most successful coach in NFL history said “If winning isn’t everything, why do they keep score?”
This statement embodies the growth of post-war sport. From a cultural perspective, the 20th century saw sport become commercialised where the object of winning carried with it increasingly coveted, material rewards in the form of fame, wealth and status.
As suggested above, Nike has been a significant contributor, if not the doyen of this trend. The Brand’s Sponsorship boasts approximately 188 professional teams, spanning 6 continents, across countless sports. These are alongside the hundreds of individual professionals whose endorsements ensure the Nike brand is never far from a World title belt, Championship Trophy or awards ceremony.
During the 1970s when Nike was beginning to gain traction as a heavy-weight sporting brand, a technological advancement also had a substantial influence on sporting culture; the emergence of Satellite Television brought with it the age of mass sport viewing.
The Sports & Entertainment Programming Network known as ESPN revolutionised spectating with what it termed “out-of-market sports packages”, essentially bringing sporting events from anywhere around the world into a person’s living room.
No longer was viewing limited to local sporting events, people could now tune in to watch the best of the best competing in any sport, in any area, at the flick of a button.
Moving into the 1990s, this trend increased further still with the emergence of similar sport networks (i.e. Sky Sports, Euro Sport, and NBC Sports), giving rise to battles over rights to the biggest and most sought-after sporting events.
The sporting mantra of the late 20th century was “exclusive elitism”.
This new phase of Television viewing coupled with an abundance of sports teams/athletes stitched with the Nike Swoosh logo ensured that the brand was funneled into an ever growing volume of households internationally.
As we move closer to 2012 however, it is critical to appreciate a shift; while Sporting Consumerism is still as strong as it was when ESPN began their obsessive 24 hour coverage over 40 years ago, people’s view of sporting success and achievement has shifted to a more sensitive and realistic disposition.
American Novelist Chuck Palahniuk wrote;
“…we’re an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables – slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history…. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact”.
(Motion Picture: Fight Club 1999)
Whilst this quote frames society somewhat negatively, it holds some truth about consumerism, especially that which is evident in sporting culture, here we refer to the awareness and sensitivity which society began to develop towards sport and its material wealth moving into the 21st century.
Society’s new found consciousness around sporting consumerism is best characterised by studies like that of “School Stickers” in 2010 (Daily Mail) which found that two thirds of British Schools were awarding “prizes for all” to promote ‘inclusivity’ in youngsters, meaning no winners but merely equal prizes for taking part.
Educational institutions were clearly beginning to register that the sport culture of achievement and exclusivity had the potential to damage people who were not prodigies, the “people” being the bodies that Nike Founder Bill Bowerman referred to, the vast majority, the everyman.
Simply put, contemporary society’s relationship with sport is as passionate as ever but is now more realistic, more self-aware.
The Person: Sprinting for Self-Efficacy
Nike’s target segment for the +FuelBand is almost universal, the nature of the product means that any one of Bowerman’s ‘athletes’ (“anyone with a body”) can benefit from using it, the product is not specific to one sporting discipline.
However, a common trait which the target individuals do share is the pursuit of a personal goal.
The FuelBand is designed never be taken off, tracking a wide variety of anaerobic exercises, it provides the wearer with instant updates about their performance but more importantly, performance in relation to a personally set goal. This can be Kilometres covered, calories burned or even daily steps taken but most importantly, features notify the wearer when they are wavering from their target.
The product is tailored for a quantitative, almost obsessive individual who is intensely aware of their level of self-ability.
This means we can say that the FuelBand is aimed individuals wanting to address their self-efficacy.
Whilst being only one common characteristic, this cognitive drive which the target market possess is incredibly revealing, at this point it is useful to employ Psychologist Albert Bandura’s work on Social Cognitive Theory (a facet of Self-Efficacy) to gain more detail on the group’s mind-set;
“… an individual’s actions and reactions, including social behaviours and cognitive processes, in almost every situation are influenced by the actions that individual has observed in others”.
To briefly summarise our “People” then; we have a mass group, varying in almost every attribute (including involvement in sport), yet they share a common trait which is a desire to address their own self-efficacy after being exposed to years of elitism in the sporting media.
Close the chasm between emulation and reality. Make fantastical achievement tangible.
Wieden+Kennedy’s resultant campaign for Nike was a masterclass in understanding people and executing an emotional marketing communication…
THE EXECUTION: http://bit.ly/1qq2vpn