When Wieden + Kennedy London, a creatively-driven communications agency, was tasked with the challenge to create a London-centric campaign for Nike, they knew that story telling and everyday Londoners would have to be at the heart of it. Since the 1971 humble beginnings of the swoosh sign through the 1978 launch of Nike, Inc. to the 1995 Ric Munoz AIDS and If You Let Me Play Sports campaign to countless ten toes to the ground campaigns later, emotive story telling has been at the heart of the Nike brand.
In 1992 Phil Knight posited in the Harvard Business Review, “Why do people get married – or do anything…. Because of emotional ties. That’s what builds long-term relationships with the consumer, and that’s what our campaigns are about. Our advertising tries to link consumers to the Nike brand through the emotions of sports and fitness. We show competition, determination, achievement, fun, and even the spiritual rewards of participating in those activities.
Fast forward to countless ads that had taken a stand at unpopular times, to be on the right side of history like Colin Kaepernick’s Believe in Something, Even if it Means Sacrificing Everything commercial and the campaign that focused on five Middle Eastern women that pushed social norms, What Will They Say About You? The winning formula has been set, now the challenge is how to innovate and make it real to Londoners.
They started with 258 real-life young, enterprising, and fiercely competitive Londoners who appear in the film. Through resourcefulness, confidence, and hunger, these youngster take us on a “whistle stop” tour of London – as they strive to one-up each other every step of the way sharing their own struggles and sporting achievements.
Here’s where the innovation comes in. Each young London athlete launched the campaign through their respective social channels. Personalized standalone scenes were given as a piece of content, which was then posted on Instagram. Each athlete would then link directly from their page to the next competitor creating this seemingly organic epic battle. The full version of the film was not broadcast until February 9 across TV, Cinema and Online giving the Instagram campaign time to run to its full capacity.
The winner formula produced the following reported results:
- Awards include Cannes Lions (including Grand Prix and Titanium), seven yellow D&AD Pencils, Campaign Big Award, The One Show – Gold Pencil and a Webby award
- Almost 90% view through rate on VEVO (VOD)
- According to fashion search platform Lyst, London searches for Nike products were up 93% following the ad’s launch. Nike searches were also up 72% in Manchester and 54% across the UK overall
- Widespread global PR coverage in titles including The Sun, Complex, Independent, Noisey, The Evening Standard, Metro and ITV News
Nike, no stranger to marrying controversy to advertising seemingly left that element out this time around… or did they. If you listen to each story closely you will notice a theme. Each athlete is a local – they come from the same city, they share a relationship – the love and passion for competition and they all express restrictions – while different, still an experience that we can all relate to. In the times that we are going through, is Nike sending a bigger message of unity here? One in which while we all may have different struggles, hardships, and biases working against us, in some way shape or form we can all relate to the idea of restrictions and therefore have empathy and compassion for each other?
Does Nike really have the winning formula?
Would brands struggle to replicate this process and if so which ones and why?