Nike: Digital race

Written by Super User

Nike's race to the digital forefront.

How Nike digitized the #brand experienceMost brands have established a footing in social media – designing a Facebook page, tweeting brand updates or creating a LinkedIn community. Few, however have managed to inject engagement and interactivity across this platform. With customers now possessing the same broadcasting tools as brands, marketing needs to be anchored in brand participation, customer dialogue and share-worthy content.

So what did Nike do?

Racing past its competitors, Nike has socialized and localized sport. Boasting a brand community of over 5 million members, Nike has kept its fans engaged by introducing the Nike+ GPS app and Sportwatch app. These digital tools gave community members access to local route data, maps, recommendations and support from Facebook friends. Nike's products were thus promoted by digitizing the running experience, abandoning traditional sales messages for a more interactive, engaging and content-led campaign.

Nike began experimenting with digital platforms as early as 1996 when the brand launched for the Atlanta Olympics, distributing assets and interviews to media around the world. This move was the basis for all further digital expansion.

In 2004, Nike made its first real move into the social space, working with media company Gawker to launch "Art of Speed," a series of speed-focused short films sourced from up-and-coming filmmakers.

They got serious about social media in 2005-2006 when we began a partnership with Google to create in support of 2006 World Cup. was a custom social network built on the Orkut platform before social networks were the norm. Focused on football [soccer] and targeted at the football-obsessed teen, it had more than one million consumers worldwide actively engaged with the site.

Nike also joined MySpace and YouTube around that time. Its soccer page on MySpace was one of the largest brand communities at the time, racking up 50,000 friends. Nike was also one of the first brands to take advantage of the average Internet users' propensity to share. Nike launched the famous Ronaldinho cross bar video on [YouTube's] platform and in doing so created one of the first branded YouTube channels, as well as one of the first videos to really go 'viral'.

As of 2008-2009, Nike began to aggressively grow its social soccer communities soccer around the world. This was mostly through Facebook. Today, the football community around the world reach around over 23 million consumers.

Seeing success in cultivating a community excited about soccer, the brand began to branch out its efforts last year. In 2010, Nike shifted focus from football to other key [sports] categories.

While many corporations have tried and failed to create strong social networks for their customers, Nike was not afraid to give it a go two years ago, when it launched Nike+, a social network for runners using its Nike+ products. The site has achieved great success, as it provides true value to users, enabling them to track their running records and health stats, as well as challenge themselves and their friends, among other features.

But with such growth comes pain. Due to overwhelming success, the Nike+ site has continued to malfunction in recent months. Users have reported not being able to log in, sync devices, share runs or edit their profiles. This is a bump in the road for Nike, and it has plans to launch a new Nike+ site in early 2012, saying that the site will be faster, more social and easier to use.

Nike has embraced location-based gaming since before it was cool. Its first location-based campaign, called Operation 6453, was a text messaging scavenger hunt that took place in 2004.

In 2010 Nike created a game/campaign called 'The Grid' in London. The Nike Grid - a real-world, city-wide gaming platform for runners. It turned London into a giant gameboard with the goal of re-energizing running in the UK and encouraging people to experience running in a whole new context.

Runners were challenged to run to different checkpoints around the city to earn points. The usual running experience was augmented by creating an immersive layer on top of the run. This altered how the activity was experienced - ultimately building a new cultural running platform owned by the running community.

The campaign ran on Facebook. The Grid is a unique example of merging real-world sport performance with digital and social channels to create a community that is self-policed and group-strategized - they even organized their own wrap party.

Unlike a standard running one-day event, with a set distance and a target time, Grid's runners played for 15 full days, logging a total 30,177 runs, which equates to a distance halfway round the Earth: 12,500 miles.

Nike has managed to digitize the brand experience through its dedication to location-based campaigns; tapping into local social networks within a global brand campaign. In 2010 Nike Grid was launched, revolutionizing the running experience with augmented reality.

The city of London was transformed into a digital network of routes and checkpoints to re-energize the running experience. This cocktail of local, social, digital, community and real-world sport, has fuelled sharing, interaction and engagement amongst Nike brand fans.

Nike has created a number of location-based initiatives, but the biggest integration of location is that with Nike+, with the launch of the Nike+ GPS application and the Nike+ GPS Sportwatch. Using these devices, users are able to track their routes and share them with the community with the result of the single largest databases of running routes in the world, created in just over a year.

Inspiring Young Athletes

Nike recently ran a campaign called "The Chance" to provide a tangible opportunity for kids around the world to live the dream of becoming a professional footballer. Nike, through social media, provided kids with an opportunity to train at The Nike Academy, run in partnership with Premier League. The winning participants were given a full year attendance in the Academy, getting to play against the reserve teams of Premier League and other clubs. The stories of the winners are pretty amazing. For example, Jonathon King from South Africa went from an undiscovered talent playing on a dirt field in Africa to being one of the eight winners."

The campaign ran for six months (beginning June 2010) through the NikeFootball Channels —, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube — and ended with the selection of the winners in January. As a result of the campaign, 17,000 Facebook Pages were created by participants, 5.5 million additional fans were reached through these pages, 2,000 user-generated videos and 28,000 player posts were created and the brand received 3.4 million YouTube views and counting.

Going global

Nike makes it a point to choose local social networks when connecting with consumers in local markets across the world. The brand goes global, but thinks local.