Nike remains the largest supplier of athletic shoes and sportswear in the world. Of course, it is important to note that the company is engaged in the development, manufacturing, and marketing not only of footwear and apparel but also of sports equipment and accessories.
The slogan “Just Do It” and the Swoosh logo, as well as the “Nike” brand name have relished an extensive recall. These trademarks have been associated with popular sports and sporting events, sports team, and high-profile athletes. Understanding the global reach and prolonged success of Nike requires an understanding of its marketing strategy.
The Marketing Strategy of Nike: Key Elements
1. The Goddess Nike, Swoosh, and Just Do It
At the heart of the marketing strategy of Nike are the three core components of its branding: The “Nike” brand name, the Swoosh logo, and the “Just Do It” Trademark. For starters, Nike is the name of the Greek goddess who personifies victory. Greek mythology described her as a goddess who flew around the battlefields rewarding the victors with glory and fame.
The Swoosh logo was introduced in 1971 by graphic designer Carolyn Davidson. Phil Knight, one of the founders of Nike, commissioned Davison to come up with a logo that would convey fluidity, motion, and speed. The Swoosh delivered these requirements while also representing the wings of the goddess Nike. Both the brand name and the logo position Nike as a sports brand.
Complementing the positioning of the Nike is the “Just Do It” slogan. Note that this slogan was coined in 1988 with the help of Wieden+Kennedy advertising agency and has since become one of the core components of the Nike branding. It further positions Nike as a sports brand catering to goal-driven individuals.
It represents the core values of the company centered on ambition and a winning attitude. It also serves other purposes. For example, it is a call to action that appeals to the emotions of the consumers through a brief motivational pep talk. It also represents the very essence of sports, athleticism, and sportsmanship.
Nevertheless, the Nike brand name, the Swoosh logo, and the “Just Do It” slogan have not only promoted the selling proposition of the company and its products but also become critical identifiers that promote and reinforces brand recall through association.
2. Sponsorships and Celebrity Endorsements
Also part of the marketing strategy or more specifically, marketing activities of Nike is product promotion through sponsorship agreements with sports celebrities or high-profile athletes, sports events, sports associations and organized sports leagues, professional sports teams and clubs, and collegiate sports teams. Note that sponsorship is one of the aspects of sports marketing.
The company has tapped legendary players from the National Basketball Association such as Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant with multimillion-dollar deals. FIFA World Cup footballers such as Neymar Jr. and Claudio Marchisio have also endorsed the brand.
Nike has also tapped other superstars in other sports such as tennis players Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova, tennis player Paul Rodrigues Jr., now-retired and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, and golf legend Tiger Woods. The company has also entered in numerous uniform deals with different sports league such as NBA and sports teams and sports club such in different football leagues.
Nevertheless, through sponsorships and celebrity endorsements, Nike is able to promote its products by creating memory effects within the minds of the target consumers or through event-linked associated that trigger brand recall. It is also worth mentioning that high-profile endorsements from superstars like Jordan and Neymar Jr. supplement the selling proposition of Nike.
3. Advertising Campaigns and Media Presence
Nike has also maintained its presence through different traditional and digital media platforms. It has invested heavily in advertisements and advertising components that utilized the key components of its branding along with derivative marketing messages about athleticism and sportsmanship, goals and ambition, perseverance and winning.
The company aired its first three national television ads in 1983 during the broadcast of the New York Marathon. Throughout the years, it has earned critical acclaim for its advertising campaigns such as an Advertiser of the Year award in 1994 and 2003 from the Cannes Advertising Festival, as well as two Emmy Awards in 2000 and 2002.
Note that Nike has also been placing outdoor advertisements such as billboards, digital signage, and other forms of outdoor displays. It has also maintained an active online presence through its digital marketing activities that include social media marketing and other paid advertising campaigns coursed through various online platforms.
Although the company has developed and disseminated advertisements with various themes, it uses all media platforms to maintain cohesiveness in its messaging. The core branding elements and selling proposition of the company are also present in all of its ads. Nevertheless, by integrating various mediums of communication, Nike ensures that it is able to reach an expansive pool of audiences across different demographic and psychographic backgrounds.
4. Product Strategy Through Diversification
Remember that the company is involved in the design, manufacturing, and marketing not only of sports footwear and apparel but also of equipment and accessories across sports such as basketball, American football and European football, volleyball, tennis, golf, extreme sports such as skateboarding, boxing and mixed martial arts, and cricket, among others. This presence in diversified types of sports cements Nike as a multi-dimensional sports brand. Diversification is central to the product strategy of Nike.
It is also worth mentioning that there are other subsidiaries under the company and thereby, other sports associated with Nike. These brands represent specific product categories and niche markets. For example, the Nike Pro brand represents sportswear products while the Nike Golf brand caters to different products for golf enthusiasts. The Nike Skateboarding brand includes an extensive line of footwear, apparel, equipment, and accessories for skateboarders.
Specific lines of footwear have been developed under the parent Nike brand. The Nike Air Max was introduced in 1987 and the products under this brand features air cushioning unit at the heel for maximum comfort. The company also launched Air Jordan in 1984 using the personal branding of Michael Jordan. There is also the Nike SFB that includes tactical and combat boots targeted toward members of the police and military force.
The success of Nike in sports marketing has also made it a lifestyle brand. Its footwear and apparel products have been a regular part of urban fashion and hip-hop culture. It has also appealed to casual individuals seeking to improve and maintain a healthy lifestyle through physical activities. Nike has essentially become an everyday brand across different market segments.
5. Corporate Social Responsibility
Numerous controversies have been associated with Nike. The company has been criticized for outsourcing to factories or so-called sweatshops in Asia and Latin America with questionable labor practices to include below-the-minimum wages, extensive work hours and poor working conditions, and child labor or labor exploitation. The company has made business and marketing decisions that have been criticized by the public.
However, as part of its effort to maintain and improve its corporate image and overall brand identity, the company has engaged in different corporate social responsibility programs. Nike has staged and sponsored programs aimed at promoting sports and physical activity among children and teenagers. It also has seasonal training camps and sporting events to promote further sports participation.
The company has also explored ways to lessen its environmental impact. For example, the company has committed to using 100 percent of renewable energy across all of its operations. It has also compelled its outsourced factories and business partners to follow a standard for maintaining responsible and sustainable manufacturing.
Since 2012, Nike is one of the partner companies for the Product Red campaign aimed at preventing the transmission of human immunodeficiency virus or HIV from mother to child through fundraising and by providing education and medical assistance. Other partner companies of the campaign inlcude Apple Inc., The Coca-Cola Company, Starbucks Corporation, and Electronic Arts, among others.