One of the best examples of community building and brand advocacy is found at global footwear, apparel and equipment powerhouse Nike. Many brands have tried, but only Nike is winning the race in social media thanks to its popular Nike+ platform. There is a major social component in playing sports and social media is a natural fit for Nike’s communications engine. At the centre of the Nike+ platform is a technology that tracks data of every run someone takes and connects that person with runners from around the world. There are over 6 million members participating on the Nike+ platform today and the #nikeplus hashtag is found on all major social networks.
The Nike+ platform has evolved into the brand message, expressing physical activity, personal goal setting, and competitiveness. Users can share successes on Twitter and Facebook, including their running routes in real-time with friends using a third party API from mobile-only social networking company Path.
The social platform traces its roots back to 2006 when Nike and Apple joined forces in the formation of an online community joining mobile technology and athleticism— all bounded by members’ enjoyment of running and music. This was a novel approach in community building, using technology consisting of an iPod and a wireless chip embedded in a pair of Nike shoes. Participants were able to logon and keep track of their workouts by looking at metrics such as distance and calories burned.
Nike expanded the Nike+ platform’s functionality and leveraged the growing surge in social media networking with its own branded site in 2010. The company launched the Nike+ device lineup with the introduction of the exciting Nike Fuel Band wrist band (a state-of-the-art accelerometer device) shortly afterwards in 2012.
The Fuel Band is designed to show activity levels, including the time, the number of steps taken in a day, and calories burned. A new fitness universal metric called Nike Fuel was created and has become central to the global appeal of the Nike+ platform.
The Nike Fuel Band introduction was supported by a launch event hosted by talk show personality Jimmy Fallon, generating publicity and social media buzz. Check out this “energetic” launch for the Nike Fuel Band on YouTube:
Nike asked for a commercial to be produced by film director and editor Max Joseph for the Nike FuelBand, featuring the slogan “Make it Count.” Apparently, Joseph and collaborator Casey Neistat took the money and ran! In just 10 days they spent all of Nike’s money and traveled 34,000 miles, visiting 16 cities in 13 countries on three continents. The video went viral and not only supported the launch of the Nike Fuel Band device, but also encouraged sports teams to train together using Nike+ digital products. The video was supported by the #MAKEITCOUNT hashtag on Twitter and Instagram and resulted in millions of people uploading photos and countless Tweets.
Earlier this year, Nike launched an interactive campaign called “Fuel Your Team” that allowed users to show support for their favourite college basketball team by earning them Nike Fuel points. A dedicated website was created for the campaign supported by the hashtag of #counts — a great example of how user interactivity creates brand loyalty without overtly selling products.
There are a number of key takeaways when studying the Nike+ platform:
- Consistent messaging is essential across all digital channels
- Video is a highly effective and engaging medium, aligned with the Nike audience
- The Nike+ platform is the brand and integral for community building
- Gamification creates higher levels of brand engagement and strengthens the community
- Social media networking is an ideal fit and the foundation for Nike’s marketing
The Nike+ platform is a real life lab of millions of brand enthusiasts having a multitude of conversations. By monitoring what is being said and shared, Nike can gain the insights to create its next big product innovation.
Some key elements for Nike to track include:
- The most engaged and influential members
- The type of content being shared the most
- Which social networks the content is being shared on
- Look for correlations of membership growth and social media activity with sales
Nike’s mission statement reads: “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.” They don’t discriminate — if you have a body you’re an athlete. Nike messaging is never about selling shoes, but winning! An inspirational brand.