‘Advertising, not just entertainment’: Why Nike’s TikTok ad was the most creatively effective of July

Nike’s ad landed in top 20% of all UK ads for its ability to actively involve viewers, scoring similarly on its contribution towards building brand affinity.

Source: Nike/TikTok via Kantar

TikTok can be somewhat of a risky platform for advertisers. While users expect all videos to be entertaining and relevant to them, pursuing that goal can lead brands into creating content that works well as entertainment, but not as advertising.

Nike’s ‘She’s Ballin’ (watch below) is an example of a TikTok ad that got the balance right. It has been identified by Kantar’s The Works study as the most creatively effective ad on the platform in July in terms of public response. Not only does the ad engage viewers, landing in the top 20% of all UK ads on a measure of active involvement, it also scores high on long-term brand building measures.

The ad cycles through shots of women playing or supporting football in the aftermath of the UEFA Women’s Euros tournament earlier this year, ending on the line, ‘Never settle, never done’.

Produced in association with Marketing Week and the Advertising Association’s Trust Working Group, The Works asked 750 consumers what they thought of five of July’s top TikTok ads – 150 consumers per advert.

Some 70% of viewers endorsed Nike’s ad as being “involving”, versus an average of 43%, the study reveals.

“Once attention has been earned, the challenge is to retain it and avoid the skip,” Kantar’s head of creative excellence Lynne Deason tells Marketing Week. In the case of She’s Ballin, 65% of people played the entire ad, with people viewing an average of 80% overall.

According to Deason, there are several elements within the ad which are “working together” to help retain viewers. She says: “Kantar’s BrandZ data reveals consumers see TikTok as particularly fun and playful in character, and this ad has a similar feeling.”

Indeed, participants in the study said they “enjoyed the positive energy” of the ad and its “happy and communal vibe”, with one stating: “It’s upbeat and involves the viewer as if they were there.”

Advertising on digital channels can often be seen as an unwelcome disruption, but according to Kantar’s 2021 Media Reactions study, this is not the case on TikTok. On top of being perceived as the “most innovative” channel, the platform was the top-ranking media brand among consumers for global ad equity.

“Ads on TikTok are perceived to be more fun, entertaining, and innovative than other media brands, and perceived advertising volume is currently low, but increasing,” Deason explains.

Source: Kantar

Another key element to success on TikTok is music, and in Nike’s ad, the use of a catchy song (‘Shake it to the Ground’ by DJ Blaqstarr & Rye Rye) plays an “important role” in supporting its impact, Deason says.

Participants in the study spontaneously spoke about finding the music “catchy”, “groovy” and “snappy”, and over two-thirds agreed they enjoyed it.

Music also plays an additional role in a TikTok ad, as creators on the platform can use it in their own content and “contribute to the consistency of the campaign”, especially when invited to create content that directly responds to the ad.

She’s Ballin includes a hashtag challenge, inviting young women to share their skills or appreciation for football. Kantar’s study saw 44% of people say they are likely to join in with the challenge and the hashtag has garnered 5.1 billion views to date, helped by the popular influencers Nike worked with on the campaign.

Driving impact for the brand

However, entertainment and music aren’t the only characteristics associated with TikTok, Deason says. Inclusivity and diversity is another.

“The platform encourages people to be their true selves. Success comes from both the community of creators and others who enjoy the platform engaging with content that others have created,” she explains.

“Recognising and embracing this inclusive community feel is important for brands wanting to successfully leverage the opportunity this platform represents.”

Inclusivity and diversity is a notable strength of Nike’s ad, which showcases young women across various backgrounds and ethnicities.

Strengthening the association of the ad with Nike further would increase the potential of the ad to deliver a greater return for the brand.

Lynne Deason, Kantar

Inclusive casting doesn’t necessarily deliver more effective advertising, Deason warns, adding: “What counts is portraying people positively.”

Looking at Kantar’s UnStereotype measure, on average ads that perform well on positive diversity and inclusivity deliver greater business results in both the short term and long term, she adds. Nike’s ad falls in the top 1% of all UK ads on this measure.

“She’s Ballin’ certainly gets the ball in the back of the net on this one,” Deason says.

“Timed perfectly around the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022, this ad contributes further to Nike challenging multiple stereotypes around women’s football, bringing to life in a powerful way that the game truly is for everyone.”

Participants in the study noted the ad was “inclusive of all nationalities” and liked that it “revolves around girls”. One said: “Seeing a girl in a hijab playing football too was great! That representation matters!”

However, to deliver a return on investment, ads on TikTok need to be “brand centric” and deliver against the business goal it was created for, Deason reiterates.

“This is advertising, not just entertainment, and the fundamentals of effective advertising still apply. Marketers need to consider how to create content that is intuitively authentic to their brand,” she says.

Nike’s ad successfully conveys the brand’s range of sports clothing and its “fun” attitude as a brand, she adds. On top of that, the ad delivers a feeling that Nike is setting trends, falling in the top 10% of UK ads, and contributes towards building affinity and warmth towards the brand (top 20%).How a Lurpak YouTube ad ranked among the most effective in March

These attributes “go beyond building salience” and contribute to the long-term success of the brand, by “positively impacting what people think and feel about it”, Deason explains. But Nike could take the ad’s brand association even further.

“Of all the ads researched, this was the strongest in terms of branding,” she says.

“But strengthening the association of the ad with Nike further would increase the potential of the ad to deliver a greater return for the brand, and increase Nike’s association and positive impact on smashing stereotypes in sport.”