Nike’s new approach to their global marketing has had their competitors and fans alike wondering whether a new era in massive-brand marketing has come about. If so; is it working?
Nike is one of the few major sports labels that has truly embraced the digital generation. They recently changed their core target market to seventeen-year-olds, citing that the age group spends 20% more on shoes than their older counterparts. This shift in perspective has brought about an entirely new approach to their communication with their fans because marketing nowadays is all about communication. As Mark Parker (Nike CEO) said, “Connecting today is a dialogue.”
Nike launched the Fuelband, a wristband that enables sports-lovers to track their progress through an interactive website. Not only did the Fuelband receive massive success but it also spawned an online community that revolved around Nike bringing sports into people’s everyday lives. Another positive (and rather sneaky) benefit to the Fuelband online community is that it acts as a constant marketing survey for Nike products and Nike’s market, regularly letting Nike know what people like about what they sell and which sports are most popular.
In 2006, Nike+ was conceived. Partnering with Apple and riding on the wave of success the iPod created, Nike added yet another aspect to their online interaction. Fortune’s Scott Cendrowski explains it best:
“Powered by a sensor inside running shoes, the service both monitors a runner’s performance and provides digital coaching. A voice lets runners know how much farther they have to go; the PowerSong function generates a musical blast for extra motivation. At the end, it logs details of the workout onto Nikeplus.com, where users can store and analyze the data, get training tips, and share workouts with friends.”
Another online community, another way to find out Nike consumers’ workout and behavioural patterns and musical tastes and generally another way to find out how they live their lives. Nike has perfected the art of getting in touch with the people that support them.
Nike realised that they had to go where their target market was going and talk to them on their level – basic marketing principles but it lead to a completely new brand personality for Nike. Their international Facebook page now has 8,938,010 likes. Their Nike Footballs Facebook page boasts a staggering 11,807,328 likes. The Nike Facebook app has 360,000 monthly users – that’s 360,000 people updating Nike’s market research every single month and that’s not even the entire picture. Their Nike Chance Facebook app has 250,000 monthly users and their Nike Free Run iD has 80,000 monthly users. A very impressive transition into the digital world and it shows that Nike really understand how the social networking world operates.
On Twitter, they have a slightly disappointing 377,367 followers. Then again, the tweets results page is constantly flooded with mentions.
In 2010, Nike really put their stamp on the social-media map when they hosted their ‘Write the Future campaign’. Operating from their Nike Football Facebook page, the campaign revolved around hearing what their fans had to say about their favourite football players. A tab on the page let users choose from a selection of internationally-recognised footballs players and write a 43-character tag-line. The most popular or catchy tag-lines were screened at a pre-determined time on the Life Centre, using an LED screen the approximate size of half a football field. Tag-lines could also be entered through Twitter, using the #NIKEFUTURE hashtag.
The campaign not only let Nike know who their fans’ favourite football players were but also used the idea of recognition as a reward instead of tangible give-aways, which probably worked better than any Nike package could have.
Not only did the campaign receive international acclaim for being innovative, edgy and modern but it also ensured Nike’s place as a big brand name in the South African market – a market that is too often neglected. Write The Future showed the world that Nike was in-tune with the new digital age that has lead many other international brands to miss out on the younger market.
Nike has now drastically reduced the portion of their marketing budget spent on traditional, off-line advertising. However, this doesn’t mean that they’ve reduced their marketing budget in general. Rather, Nike has poured their funding into marketing that works now instead of marketing that worked before. They spent a record-breaking $2.4 billion dollars on marketing in 2011, the majority of it for their online interaction. Adverts for Nike now flight first on their Facebook stage, as opposed to the traditional way of putting them on TV and later making the advert available online. It’s an approach that other companies are often far too scared to try – but it’s working.