Nike is the heavyweight champion of sports brands. According to Brand Finance, the Nike brand alone is worth over $28 billion. A nice bonus for a company that has annual revenues of more than $36 billion.
There are only a few brands that achieve ubiquity in popular culture like Nike. In the song “Air Force Ones“, rap artist Nelly dedicated his song to buying a pair of Nikes. Sneakerheads went crazy when the company launched their limited edition line called MAG. The shoes, which sold for up to $9,000, were a replica of the shoe worn by Michael J. Fox in the film “Back to The Future II”.
No matter where we turn, it feels like there’s a swoosh just around the corner. So how does Nike build such a great brand?
#1 Marketing is the product. The product is the marketing.
There is a never-ending Nike debate. Are they a marketing company or a product company?
The truth is somewhere in the middle — the real power of what Nike does as a brand lays in the integration of product innovation with a distinct brand marketing strategy.
“We’ve come around to saying that Nike is a marketing-oriented company, and the product is our most important marketing tool. What I mean is that marketing knits the whole organisation together. The design elements and functional characteristics of the product itself are just part of the overall marketing process.”
Phil Knight, Co-founder Nike
#2 Endorse a role model
Nike has a unique skill for sponsoring the right people. From Jordan, LeBron, and Ronaldo in the sports arena to filmmaker Spike Lee or cutting-edge fashion brands such as Commes des Garçons.
Nike has led the way in connecting their product to role models and tastemakers. Their pioneering partnership with Michael Jordan redefines how sports build a brand and sell products. As of today, years after Jordan’s retirement, the Jordan brand has retail sales more than $3 billion per year.
#3 Tell a story worth sharing
Nike has been “Just Doing It” for over 30 years now. Their brand campaign has come to be the benchmark by which all other brands compare themselves.
Just Do it started in 1988 with 80-year-old Walt Stack. Nike chose to create an inspiring and universal message that we are all athletes. And customers were mobilised. Nike’s profits almost tripled in the year, and the Just Do It snowball had begun.
Fast forward 30 years and Nike still has its magic touch. This year they featured controversial NFL player Colin Kaepernick. In the three days after launching the campaign, Nike sales increased by 31% and the brand was once again on the front page.
Everything the Nike brand has achieved starts with high-performance products that continually evolve and innovate. With marketing at the core of the business, the company makes shrewd investments in the heroes of sport and popular culture. And all of that is neatly packaged in a story worth sharing.
If that’s not enough for you, the biggest company on the planet sourced their inspiration from Nike too.
“The best example of all, and one of the greatest jobs of marketing the universe has ever seen is Nike. Remember, Nike sells a commodity. They sell shoes. And yet when you think of Nike, you feel something different than a shoe company.”
Steve Jobs, Co-founder Apple Inc.