BLUE Ribbon Sports, or as it’s referred to today, Nike, has been pushing the boundaries of sportswear technology since 1964.
Now this would typically be the part where I begin by taking a dive into the company history and give you a play by play account of Nike from its inception to present day and detailing its battles with long standing competitor Adidas (created in 1949). But frankly very little of that has anything to do with why I hold them in such high regard.
Having studied marketing for the last five years, and growing up consuming media in all its forms; in my opinion Nike is one of the best to ever (Just)do it.
It’s 2002 a time in which celebrity endorsement is all you really need to sell, Nike have brought together some of the biggest names in world football, put them in a shipping container in the middle of the ocean, entombed in a cage these titans of football are holding a knockout football tournament with Eric Cantona as host referee. At the time, it was the pinnacle of celebrity advertising, a masterclass in branding.
Fast forward to present day and consumers demand more, partnering a big-name celebrity isn’t enough. Besides, it’s no longer always the most efficient marketing strategy from a financial standpoint either. Social media platforms like Instagram have millions of users who can reach a wide audience in a single post for a fraction of the cost of a marketing campaign, the landscape has changed irrevocably.
Creating a narrative and telling a story whilst being authentic and genuine will put you head and shoulders above the competition. Having grown up in London, the best and equally worst years of my life were spent in the country’s capital city. Yet it’s the reason I believe Nike’s “Nothing Beats a Londoner” campaign is, in equal measure, one of the most powerful and divisive pieces of targeted marketing the UK has ever seen. Going by the title alone it’s not hard to see why. But by avoiding clichés, the ad instils a sense of pride in Londoners and Brits in general. The focus isn’t on iconic London landmarks but the streets and boroughs real kids from the capital live in.
The campaign drew criticism from just about everyone outside of London, with consumers in other towns and cities feeling unsurprisingly left out. Yet if you subtract the name London from the ad, it can just as easily be replaced with Derby, Manchester, Liverpool to name just a few. The scenarios depicted are relatable wherever you grew up, whatever your background.
In 2018 the way in which Nike handled the issues surrounding Colin Kaepernick made us sit up and look at the way in which we view sports marketing. It was a powerful statement to companies that had the ability to use their platforms to serve a cause bigger than their profit margins. The campaign itself was in no means revolutionary, the component parts were all in play, at its core it was traditional brand storytelling. But to take your message out of sport and attempt to force social and political change is something to be admired and something that will live long in the memory.
A brand can achieve greatness based on the quality of its products, its style, design or innovations. But when they seek to go beyond that, incite real and meaningful change in the world, in my humble opinion that puts them a cut above the rest and Nike will continue to strive to be on top.