How Nike connected with Football

This week marks one of world football’s biggest showcases, the European Champions League Final, so we thought we’d celebrate one brand’s phenomenal achievement in this sport.

Nearly 20 years ago at the World Cup Finals in France 1998, Nike announced their arrival onto the world game scene with a blockbuster ad featuring the newly sponsored Brazilian national team performing mesmerising tricks in an airport. It was a typical Nike statement of intent, an organisation not known to tiptoe into things!

There followed many more spectacular TV commercials in the coming decade. However to inspire isn’t always to connect, and there was work to be done before kids dropped their favourite boots for the new brand on the block. What they set about doing over the following years serves as a masterclass in audience understanding and creation of connection opportunities. Nike doesn’t ‘share’ media platforms with other brands, preferring to own them outright or create them themselves. Here are some examples:

  1. Retailers were slow to react to the digital age and their websites were ugly, cheap and rarely worked. So Nike created The Bootroom, a website which gave footballers the premium brand experience they craved, inspirational content from their heroes and a solution to buy online.
  2. The national football body of clubs and organisations was incredibly fragmented with no clear pathway for aspiring young players to achieve their dreams. So Nike created The Academy, their own programme of local trial events, regional tournaments and then hired scouts to send the best players to Arsenal & Barcelona’s youth teams.
  3. Young players played, they typically didn’t read football media, so how to connect? Build your own channel. Nike announced they were to give away football boot USBs loaded with content & offers and distribute them via the largest retailer. Even Nike were surprised when there were queues round the block.

Did any of this work? According to major boot retailer kitbag.com, Nike held the top 4 best-selling football boots in 2016. Dominating more established competitors adidas and umbro.

Yes, they still create the blockbuster ad with their superstars every major tournament but you’ll do well to find it on TV. Most of Nike Football connections are made through their own media channels, invariably ones that they created because the media they wanted didn’t exist.