Posted At: December 11, 2008 1:09 PM
by Jessica Ayers
Nike entered the new millennium with a brand portfolio that any company would envy and spokespersons of the likes of Michael Jordan, Lance Armstrong, Roger Federer and others who, in 2000, were at the top of their game or climbing to the height of their legendary status.
Having dealt with corporate responsibility issues in the previous decade and continuing to enforce high labor standards and increased monitoring, Nike could go nowhere but up. And the company reached for the stars. Literally.
Phil Knight told the world on CNBC’s special “Inside Nike” that he doesn’t “believe in advertising.” On that foundation, Nike has implemented campaigns throughout the company’s history that combine public relations, marketing and advertising. However, per Knight’s request, “it doesn’t look like advertising” (Inside Nike).
The cornerstones of these campaigns have been Nike’s athlete brand ambassadors. The following are two of the campaigns that have set Nike apart since 2000.
Legendary is one of the only words that can be used to describe basketball great Michael Jordan. Nike launched the “Become Legendary” campaign in January 2008 to coincide with the release of the Air Jordan XX3 in the same year.
The campaign features a series of television ads airing for the first time during significant professional sporting events. The ads were called “It’s Not About the Shoes,” “Look Me In the Eyes,” “Clocktower,” and “Maybe It Was My Fault.”
According to a Nike press release, “‘BECOME LEGENDARY’ is intended to inspire consumers to exceed expectations, challenge conventional views of sportsmanship and explain that greatness is attainable. Using evocative imagery, the ad campaign animates the Jordan Brand core truths – Authentic, Uncompromised, Earned, and Inspirational – which speak directly to the brand pillars derived by Michael Jordan’s personal values and philosophy for success” (“Jordan Brand Unveils ‘BECOME LEGENDARY’ New Brand Campaign in Celebration of Air Jordan Legacy”).
“Let Me Play” and support for female athletes
Nike published the original “Let Me Play” ad in 1995, publicizing the benefits of organized sports for women and girls. In 2007, Nike responded to Don Imus’s derogatory comments regarding Rutgers’ female basketball players by launching a campaign touting the accomplishments of famous female athletes like Serena Williams and Mia Hamm, among others.
To prove the company’s commitment to the advancement of female athletes, Nike started the Let Me Play Fund with $425,000 to issue grants for equipment and uniforms for girls’ sports teams (Howard).
“Nike+” is less of a campaign and more of a technology meant to create a new lifestyle for consumers, or simply make it easier. Nike+ technology includes a chip inserted into Nike+ running shoes that communicates with the runner’s iPod or Nike+ SportBand, tracking mileage, pace and other training variables important to serious athletes and fun for casual athletes. The data can then be uploaded to the Nike+ Web site. Here comes the fun part.
The Nike+ Web site is a social network that allows users to log their workout information and share it with other users, as well as setting goals while connecting with an online network of cheerleaders. Empowered with a means of tracking progress and maintaining accountability, consumers interact with Nike on a regular basis.
Nike used this technology to put on the Nike Human Race 10k on Aug. 31, 2008, holding 10k races in 25 cities, but allowing anyone to register and log their run on the Nike+ Web site.
Of course Nike is in the business of selling products and making money, but the message in each campaign is meant to empower the consumer. By empowering the consumer, Nike builds an undeniably positive relationship with its number one public.
The planning of the release of each campaign has been impeccable. Whether honoring the accomplishments of a world-renowned athlete, responding to a negative situation in the public eye or capitalizing on the growth of social media, Nike has been able to key into what people were already thinking about, making the message more effective.
Nike knows its audience. The company’s message is effective because it builds effective relationships with its consumers. Consumers identify a message that inspires them to respond to or act on an issue already on their radar, and Nike garners instant interaction with the public, whether a sale is made or not. Once the relationship is built, a sale is probably inevitable.
Nike is the relationship king of the corporate world, and the rest of the decade should bring more good PR out of Beaverton, Ore.
Howard, Theresa. “Nike Serves Up New Ads Supporting Women.” USA Today 27 Aug. 2007. Money. 8 Dec. 2008 <http://www.usatoday.com/money/advertising/adtrack/2007-08-26-ad-track-williams_N.htm>.
“Inside Nike”. CNBC. <http://insidenike.cnbc.com>.
“Jordan Brand Unveils ‘BECOME LEGENDARY’ New Brand Campaign in Celebration of Air Jordan Legacy”. All Business. 8 Jan. 2008. 8 Dec. 2008. <http://www.allbusiness.com/marketing-advertising/marketing-techniques/6598934-1.html>