As a relatively young American brand, Nike is only a recent entry into UK football. It is a critical sector, the formative arena in which most youngsters develop their impressions of sports brands.
There are many strong brands in the sector whose reputations are made either through a long-established product, or through long associations with leading British teams and players.
For several of Nike’s competitors, advertising is simply the icing on the cake of their football activity, with the lion’s share of their expenditure being devoted to sponsorship. By contrast, Nike’s late arrival in football means that new sponsorship opportunities are relatively limited, so advertising plays a critical part in raising Nike’s profile in the game.
In 1995, Nike invested significantly in football; in the previous two years, Adidas and Reebok were the dominant advertisers.
Nike football advertising strives to break new ground in two areas. Firstly, it tries to capture the real emotion of the game. The film Kick It, an evocation of the passion of the game, is a powerful example of this. Secondly, Nike never uses its players simply to say “great players wear Nike”. Instead, these players’ attitudes and opinions about the game are used to present Nike as an innovative, dynamic brand with something fresh to say about the game.
Nike advertising targets all those who take football seriously and are interested in following the game. There is a broad market of 30 to 40 year-old men and women. However, the emphasis remains on the young, who represent the future life-blood of the market.
The multimedia campaign gave Nike almost continuous exposure in 1995. Its football advertising expenditure was 1.25m split by media into television at 69 per cent, Outdoor 21 per cent, and press ten per cent.
The two main TV executions used were Kick It, and a powerful film with Eric Cantona and Les Ferdinand which addresses the issue of racism in football. The Cantona 66 poster was used briefly in the year, but the main outdoor campaign was Punished, which dramatised Cantona’s atonement and return to professional football following his kung-fu attack on a Crystal Palace supporter.
Among people who play football regularly, spontaneous awareness of Nike advertising is much higher than for other sports brands, according to NOP.
Furthermore, in terms of future purchase considerations, Nike has the highest score among footballers.
Footwear volume sales have grown by an impressive 50 per cent over the past two years. Apparel is a sector that Nike has recently entered seriously and the sales uplift has been both sudden and dramatic.
Perhaps the most dramatic result has been the emotional interaction with the outdoor work which has turned the ads into terrace propaganda. For example, the Cantona 66 poster was turned into a 40 by 20 ft flag and given to Manchester Utd fans. It has been unfurled at numerous matches. Punished was converted into 10,000 T-shirts which sold out within a week.
From a starting point as a foreign upstart, Nike has captured the hearts and minds of the soccer fraternity, as well as a wider public.
AGENCY: SIMONS PALMER
Campaigns: Kick It, Play Football, Apology, 6
AGENCY: wieden kennedy
Campaigns: 66, Punished