By Kenneth Cortsen, inspiration from a 2010 visit to Nike’s HQ in Oregon, the US.
Writing down memories and thoughts regarding specific situations and experiences on the wall may serve great purposes in terms of creating brand experiences. That is a way to depict the emotions leading to, integrated into and related to the great experiences that these situations equal to people.
As a major player in the experience-based sports industry, Nike has become experts in staging experiences. Consumers, business partners, endorsed athletes and other stakeholders often take part in the show – the business model of Nike involves show business. In the modern contemporary society, sport is not only about sport but about the mix between the roots and rules of a specific sport and the entertainment and experiences being integrated into or wrapping the whole sport package (Tuchman, 2009, pp. 15-16). These aspects are often portrayed and reinforced via mass media’s focus on sports (Brick et al., 2009, pp. 21-22; Andrews, 2004).
Sports have many of the characteristics of experiences. I find that Nike spans over the entire ‘interaction spectrum’ in terms of its level of interactions with stakeholders. Nike in its recent and modern edition goes all the way from ‘being transparent and informative about its actions’ to ‘relating deeply with and involving their stakeholders’ (Fisher-Buttinger & Wallaster, 2008, pp. 98-99). Nike has certainly found a way to act strategically around the involvement of stakeholders that are vital to a perfect execution of the corporation’s business model. Nike magnetizes stakeholders and has been exceptional in building a powerful long-term bond with these stakeholders. That serves as a smart business approach in the way that it supports the corporation’s sustainability by increasing the potential of capitalizing on its strategic activities.
Visiting Nike’s campus gave insight into the path that Nike is following to optimize their ROIs. By initiating event marketing campaigns in a co-branding effort with other key players in the sport business such as ESPN and Gatorade, Nike follows their own course in search for a money tree. This is brought to reality when Nike positions itself towards the future stars of sports. For many years, Nike has been known for adding ‘cutting edge mindsets’ to its generation of brand experiences and hence brand equity – something that has helped to distinguish the company from competitors in the sports equipment industry. Initiatives based on the premises of ‘event marketing’ is a common action plan to follow in that industry but Nike has still shown the capability to do it in ‘very strategic and distinguished ways’ closely aligned with the corporation’s brand promises and that is how Nike has succeeded in differentiating itself from competitors.
In July, Nike hosted an event called 7-ON, which brought the best high school football players in the US to Nike’s campus. Imagine being a 16-year old high school football player, who is invited to join fellow talents at Nike’s campus in Beaverton, Oregon and to play the sport you love in front of a live TV audience broadcasted via ESPN. No wonder that these kids come in to Nike’s HQ with ‘shining eyes’.
Representing the same corporate sports giant that has endorsed some of the biggest mega stars and icons in sports like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Roger Federer is a privilege. On top of that, the professional set-up that surrounds these young players seems to be in the same league as that of the super stars. Before the event, hairdressers, stylists and Nike crew, nurse players – everything is fine-tuned for the event appearance.
It is appealing to ask the question: what happens when these players become stars in college or super stars in the NFL? One thing is for sure and that is that they will be exposed to great interest from sports equipment manufacturers and other corporate entities, which may capitalize on associations with professional athletes.
Endorsement deals form a strong basis in terms of Nike’s promotional activities – something that is also characteristic for many of Nike’s competitors. From that perspective, it mirrors Nike’s business model in the way that the company is capable of utilizing events to position itself in the mind of final clients at the B2C and B2B markets.
A talented high school athlete today may very well turn into a profitable relationship in a few years when he enters the NFL and remembers his great experiences from Nike’s campus. This brand loyalty may be what determines that a specific star athlete picks an endorsement deal from Nike over that of Nike’s competitors – and keep in mind the positive buzz that good brand experiences spread in the sports world.