Words by Elijah Serumaga
Blue Ribbon Sports, or as it’s referred to today, Nike, has been pushing the
boundaries of sportswear technology since 1964.
Now, this would typically be the part where I begin by taking a dive into the company
history and give you a play by play account of Nike from its inception to present day
and detailing its battles with long standing competitor Adidas (created in 1949). But
frankly very little of that has anything to do with why I hold them in such high regard.
Having studied marketing for the last five years, and growing up consuming media in
all its forms; in my opinion Nike is one of the best to ever (Just)do it.
It’s 2002 a time in which celebrity endorsement is all you really need to sell, Nike
have brought together some of the biggest names in world football, put them in a
shipping container in the middle of the ocean, entombed in a cage these titans of
football are holding a knockout football tournament with Eric Cantona as host referee.
At the time, it was the pinnacle of celebrity advertising, a masterclass in branding.
Fast forward to present day and consumers demand more, partnering a big-name
celebrity isn’t enough. Besides, it’s no longer always the most efficient marketing
strategy from a financial standpoint either. Social media platforms like Instagram
have millions of users who can reach a wide audience in a single post for a fraction
of the cost of a marketing campaign, the landscape has changed irrevocably.
Creating a narrative and telling a story whilst being authentic and genuine will put
you head and shoulders above the competition. Having grown up in London, the best
and equally worst years of my life were spent in the country’s capital city. Yet it’s the
reason I believe Nike’s “Nothing Beats a Londoner” campaign is, in equal measure, one of the most
powerful and divisive pieces of targeted marketing the UK has ever seen.
Going by the title alone it’s not hard to see why. But by avoiding clichés, the ad instils a sense
of pride in Londoners and Brits in general. The focus isn’t on iconic London landmarks but the streets and boroughs real kids from the capital live in.The campaign drew criticism from just about everyone outside of London, with consumers in other towns and cities feeling unsurprisingly left out. Yet if you subtract the name London from the ad, it can just as easily be replaced with Derby, Manchester, Liverpool to name just a few. The scenarios depicted are relatable wherever you grew up, whatever your background.
In 2018 the way in which Nike handled the issues surrounding Colin Kaepernick made us sit up and look at the way in which we view sports marketing. It was a powerful statement to companies that had the ability to use their platforms to serve a cause bigger than their profit margins. The campaign itself was in no means revolutionary, the component parts were all in play, at its core it was traditional brand storytelling. But to take your message out of sport and attempt to force social and political change is something to be admired and something that will live long in the
A brand can achieve greatness based on the quality of its products, its style, design
or innovations. But when they seek to go beyond that, incite real and meaningful change in the world, in my humble opinion that puts them a cut above the rest and Nike will continue to strive to be on top.
More recently, Nike unveiled Jadon Sancho’s signature boot (https://www.instagram.com/p/CEJJiBUJOQE/) making him the youngest Nike athlete to receive a signature shoe as well as a jersey, t-shirt and tracksuit to complete the collection. The inspiration behind the pieces stems from the wonderkid’s Kennington roots in South London. It also features a design from former council estate signs reading “No Ball Games” which was first seen on a Puma boot in 2018 designed by Yinka (https://www.instagram.com/yinkasays/) & Poet (https://www.instagram.com/poetscorneruk/) in collaboration with Puma.