Nike and the search for a sub-two-hour marathon

By on Monday, May 8, 2017

This week, I was really blown away by the latest campaign from Nike; looking to re-write the history books on what is humanly possible and break the sub-two-hour marathon barrier.

This was a huge marketing campaign which was aimed at solidifying Nike’s reputation as the leading sports fashion brand globally, and was aimed at achieving the impossible – this was their self-professed “moonshot” and was aimed at blurring the limits of the human body. The campaign used all of Nike’s financial muscle, with millions invested and the best marathon runners in the world recruited to try and make history (Eliud Kipchoge, Lelisa Desisa and Zersenay Tadese).

It was a very simple premise, but the way the campaign was crafted and delivered by Nike Sport Research Lab and their partners, across multiple marketing touch-points represents the modern way in which brands are marketing to consumers; direct, and in a very genuine, credible way.

 The campaign included high-production-quality  video content for trailers across owned, earned and  paid channels, media opportunities with talent  along with well co-ordinated and executed social  media engagement (#breaking2) . It was then used  as marketing  collateral on their website and across  their social  channels alongside information on their   new long-distance running shoes; thus creating a  tangibility  for the campaign – selling more sports  products and  driving up market share.

There was a huge amount of hype across sports  channels prior to their attempt, and though they  actually missed out on the record, they have    received significant praise for their approach and  ambitions. In this sense, Nike lost the battle, but  campaigns like this will win the marketing war; even  Adidas praised their great rival on Twitter,  conceding that Eliud Kipchoge had put in a fantastic  performance in his efforts to break the barrier.

The biggest and best campaigns ever created often  take a high degree of risk to implement, and this  was no different. But to be an apex sports brand in the current market, you need to have aspirations to break records, rip up rule-books and constantly evolve the limits of human-performance.

This stunt reminded me of one of my favourite marketing stunts ever – the Red Bull Stratos space jump – in that it was a very costly leap into the unknown, but the premise was one of unbridled ambition and the desire to create what has not been achieved before. For ambitious brands in 2017, this is the new expectation; create genuinely engaging campaigns that have a clear and concise premise and truly enrich and strengthen the brand’s image.

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