5 lessons to learn from Nike’s marketing

Following on from my previous post about the lessons you can learn from McDonald’s marketing, I wanted to look at another fantastic marketing company, Nike.

How many fashion brands from the 1970’s are still considered to be cool or desirable by a young audience? Not retro, or ironically cool, just cool?

This is because as soon as one generation associates itself with a brand, the following one sees them as being old and old fashioned (Levi jeans being a great example in the 1990’s).

Nike has been able to prevent this from happening, and still remains a brand that is able to closely associate itself with its target market of the young, active and fashion conscious.

I wouldn’t underestimate how rare and difficult it is for a brand to achieve this.

Here are 5 lessons you can take away from Nike’s marketing…

Think outside the box

One of the best case studies in guerrilla marketing comes from Nike and the 1996 Atlanta Olympic games. The official sportswear sponsor was Reebok, which meant only they could use the logo and be seen within the stadiums.

Nike simply booked pretty much all of the advertising space around the stadiums, handed out swoosh banners to wave at the competitions and built a “Nike Centre” next to the main stadium.

In post awareness surveys the large majority thought Nike was an official sponsor, with few recalling the Reebok brand at all.

This attitude to towards thinking both creatively and aggressively meant they only spent a fraction of their competitor for a much greater ROI.

Branding through association

Nike spends a huge amount on sponsoring athletes and athletic teams, and I mean huge. By associating themselves with elite athletes and teams they take a share in the emotions of winning and being perceived as a winner.

No one will expect to become better simply because they wear Nike, but that’s not the point. They will expect the product to perform better, last longer and endure more.

I have covered how you can apply this yourself in the article about creating a positive brand for your business through association.

Embrace new technology

Started in the 1970’s with a simple running show, Nike is now embracing the sales and branding opportunities that modern technology can provide.

Innovations such as the linkup between a pedometer and an iPod and the more recent “Nike Fuel” wrist band all keep Nike one step ahead of the game.

An amazing strapline

I have discussed both my dislike of poor strap lines and how to create your own strap line before, but I wanted to touch on it again here.

Nike’s “Just do it” is another case study in how it should be done. I’ve see documentaries where ad agency executives pitch an idea and sell it as being “like Nike’s”.

In summary, it sums up/ positions the brand, it is timeless, it is short and it can be applied to everything they do.

A focus on strong branding

How many brands are so confident in themselves they don’t have to use their name?

The prevalence of the Nike swoosh over the decades now means they don’t have to use anything but that on a piece of sportswear and you instantly know who the brand is.

Nike understands that marketing is about more than instant or direct responses, it is about creating strong emotional ties through consistent imagery and messages.

2 thoughts on “5 lessons to learn from Nike’s marketing

  1. Hi Matt,
    Great marketing lessons from a great brand. It’s really interesting to learn from a company that’s marketing a product which may not, in and of itself, be sexy. Let’s face it. Lots of companies make sneakers. Not everyone makes Nike’s, and I guess that says it all. Thanks for sharing with the BizSugar community.

    1. Hi Heather,

      I saw a documentary a few years ago about Nike’s headquarters and you can see why they continue to be so creative, it looked a great place to work.


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