Famous for its ambush marketing campaigns and for mastering the art of storytelling, Nike neatly side stepped the restrictions set by the London Organizing Committee and delivered a striking campaign for the London 2012 Olympics.
The Nike Find Your Greatness campaign shares stories of everyday athletes from various Londons around the world, challenging the notion that greatness is reserved for elite athletes, and inspiring everyday people to find theirs.
The campaign is an extension of Nike tagline and co-founder Bill Bowerman’s philosophy:
“If you have a body, you are an athlete.”
A New Story Every Day
Nike featured a new story every day, covering 19 different sports, including gymnastics, basketball, BMX and Wushu. The minimalist ads featured normal people and delivered hard hitting messages.
One story shows a group of burkah-clad girls huddled together. The camera zooms out to reveal they are members of a girl’s soccer team at London School in Qatar, and the voiceover delivers a direct message:
“If you think greatness is supposed to look a certain way, play a certain way and act a certain way, we certainly need to re-think some things.”
Jogger – The Story That Went Viral
The story of Nathan Sorrell, a 200 lb 12 year old from London, Ohio, went viral in America, dominating online discussions and gaining nearly 1 million views on YouTube.
The 1 minute video shows the overweight boy jogging up an empty road, growing bigger in size as he gets closer to the camera. The voiceover says:
“Somehow we’ve come to believe that greatness is a gift for a chosen few. The prodigies. The superstars… Greatness is not some rare DNA strand… Greatness is no more unique to us than breathing. We’re all capable of it. All of us.”
Jogger struck a deep emotional chord with Americans, for several reasons.
First, Americans could relate to the story. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity affects approximately 35.7% of American adults and 17% of American children. By using a real person, and referring to an issue that plagues millions of Americans, Nike gave people a story that was very similar to their own.
YouTube user sher82278 shared her story:
“You remind me of my son weighing in close to the same range at age 13 or 14. The smartest thing I did for him was to let him play youth football at age 12. It not only showed him how good he felt from the program it gave him the Confidence he needed to succeed at something greater than himself.”
Second, Americans were inspired by the story. If an overweight boy in Ohio could become active and find his greatness, so could they.
Hannah Brook Olsen, blogger at Bliss Tree wrote about the effect the commercial had on her:
“My initial feeling was that I was really inspired by the use of a real person who was trying to improve his life/health with a jog. And after watching it a few times, I’m pretty sure I just love this ad. I love Nathan. I hope he runs until he feels awesome about himself. I hope he inspires other kids to run.”
Twitter user Elisha tweeted:
— Elisha (@fresh_masala) August 2, 2012
Third, Americans were moved by the story. Local Ohio news site Record Herald interviewed Nathan about his experience shooting the commercial, and learned that Nathan and his mother had decided to help each other lose weight and become healthier. Nike had encouraged this decision, suggesting a follow up commercial if they were successful.
This story was picked up by several other domestic and international publishers, and people reacted favorably, sending well wishes to Nathan.
However, the ad also received a small share of criticism. Several people were uncomfortable about Nike’s use of an overweight child in the commercial. Some, like retired chemistry teacher Cindy accused Nike of exploiting the child:
@postsecret That Nike ad is repulsive..A 12 year old shoukd not be obese & we should not be exploiting it..
— Cindy (@gemswinc) August 6, 2012
Others felt that Nike was over-simplifying the nation’s severe obesity issue. In an article titled “Nike Uses Fat Kid to Sell Shoes, Nation Rejoices,” Jezebel blogger Lindy West pointed out the broader picture:
“If American kids are gaining weight, it’s not because they’re just naturally lazy and they naturally don’t want to work out. There are systemic problems in our country-with processed food, poverty, [terrible] school lunches, corn subsidies … that are ours to fix, not that kid’s.”
Inspiring People To Share Their Stories
A domestic sponsor of Team USA, Nike didn’t alienate achievements by US elite athletes in its social media updates. On the contrary, Nike highlighted their achievements in social media updates, and tied up with retired and injured Olympics to inspire others to find their greatness. (Thus sidestepping a restriction barring Olympic athletes from mentioning brands in their social media updates.)
Gymnast Shawn Johnson and marathoner Paula Radcliffe promoted #FindGreatness on Twitter and encouraged followers to share their stories.
People sent in stories via Twitter and images via Instagram, and Nike featured the best stories on its digital hub – gameonworld.nike.com
Integration With Nike’s Digital Products
A sub-campaign, #FuelCheck, promoted Nike products more directly, while also engaging the Nike+ online community. People were encouraged to set and measure goals using their Nike+ FuelBand, earn NikeFuel points by working out, and share their achievements.
Already inspired to work out after watching athletes on the Olympics, and the Find Your Greatness spots, people took up Nike’s challenge to earn NikeFuel and share photos of their FuelBands and activity graphs on Facebook and Twitter.
Nike catalyzed this movement with a goal to make August 12 the ‘most active day in the history of Nike+’. The benchmark had been set at 361 million NikeFuel points on August 6, and the Nike+ community was successful in setting a new record – 596 million NikeFuel points.
In the words of CMSWire blogger Deb Lavoy, Nike Find Your Greatness is an “example of how corporate purpose can be both very, very profitable, while also creating value and prosperity for its customers.” By merging corporate purpose (inspiring athletes) and narrative (find your greatness), Nike was successful in exciting people about the brand and motivating people to use the products.
One of the top buzz gainers at the Olympics
An instant hit at launch, the Nike Find Your Greatness campaign topped the AdAge viral video chart for the week ending July 31, 2012, displacing official Olympics sponsor and long time rival Adidas.
AdAge partner Bluefin Labs tracked social media response to ads, and included Nike in the list of Top 10 Buzz Gainers during the first 10 days of the games.
Find Your Greatness was covered extensively in mainstream media, blogs and social media. On Facebook, mentions of Nike shot from 135,000/day to a peak of 430,597 mentions/day for three days straight (via AppData.com).
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Originally posted on PeoplesLab.