Nike do everything well. Their latest marketing campaign, UNLIMITED, is one of the best I've seen for some time. Sporting brands generate incredible wealth, and are constantly looking to develop and create new products to win over the ever demanding market. The two heavyweights, Nike and Adidas, who have had a stronghold on the industry for the best part of 20 years, have released some exceptional advertising campaigns. Nike’s 2010 “write the future” advertisement, my personal favorite, was the perfect blend of humour, good cinematography and strong narrative. Two years later, Adidas released their “All in” advertisement, tying in their superstar athletes with newly contracted Katy Perry. The ad appealed to an enormous demographic, as it shifted emphasis from competitive sport to pop culture. This new unlimited campaign however by Nike is a stroke of genius,not only for its execution and story, but for what it means to their direct competition, Adidas. Nike's campaign looks to fuse two opposing marketing techniques, these being
Beating your competitor at their own game
Beating your competitor with something new
In doing so, I believe Nike have developed one of the formidable marketing campaigns in recent memory, and here's why.
In a series of adverts, there are two that have really stood out as being the catalysts for their campaign’s success. Both controversial and brilliant, the first focuses on Kyle Maynard, the quadriplegic amputee who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. The ad is narrated by an anonymous third party, who interacts with Kyle, telling him he shouldn't be climbing this mountain, because he has no arms and legs. Kyle's response, “I must have left them at home”, was the perfect way to take on such a heartbreaking story and transform it into something you can laugh at and resonate with.
The narrator's voicing of concern is what separates it from other advertisements before it, where previous ads focussed on encouraging athletes, this one looks to discourage them, tell them why they can’t or shouldn’t be competing. In this case, highlighting their disability as a reason for not breaking boundaries. For an ad that had such a light and easy tone, its message is extremely powerful. Maynard's exploits are universally considered ground breaking, to climb mount Kilimanjaro itself is an extraordinary feat, but to do it without limbs? Unheard of. It is this insinuated message of not letting your limitations hold you back, to defy the seemingly “impossible”, that makes the ad very dangerous for competitors Adidas. Adidas’ slogan “Impossible is nothing”, is a theme they have incorporated in a vast majority of their campaigns over time; such a move by Nike is alarming for Adidas, as they are using their competitor’s image, their guise, trying to beat them at their own game. What could only make this worse for Adidas? According to Google's findings, 34.4 percent of consumers remembered seeing Nike's "Unlimited" campaign during the olympics, the most out of any advertising campaign shown during the games.
The second ad in the campaign that stood out was far more revolutionary than any sporting advertisement I've seen before. As the world now is beginning to understand, accept, and even encourage the transgender community to be open and proud of their sexuality, Nike’s ad focussing on Chris Mosier, the USA’s first ever transgender olympic athlete, is one that breaks boundaries. Similar to the previous ad, the narrator hits the questions that were meant to discourage Chris, question his abilities and motives. “How did you know you'd be fast enough to compete against men?”, “How did you know you’d be accepted by your team?”, “how did you know you'd be allowed to compete?”. Chris’ answer, to each question, “I didn't”, was a perfect catalyst for Nike to add to their brand image. No sporting advertisement before, had so openly addressed the issue faced by the LGBT community in sport, and the stigmas associated that have prevented so many athletes not only being forced to hide their sexuality, but not even be able to compete.
In an age where acceptance is the norm, Nike's move to support Chris Mosier, and laud him for his efforts not only as an athlete, but as a beacon for the transgender community, is a bold and powerful marketing maneuver. While their competitors continue to show the world's greatest known athletes, the Leo Messi’s of Adidas, the Usain Bolts’ of Puma, the Stephen Curry's of Under Armour, Nike is reaching beyond the confines of traditional sporting advertising and giving us something truly inspiring.