Nike’s Brand Strategy is to ‘Just Do It’ and Take Risks

Nike has perfected the art of staying true to brand strategy while making headlines.

Nike is more than 30 years old, but still stays true to the original ‘Just Do It’ brand strategy

To celebrate its anniversary, the sports giant is launching a new advertising campaign featuring NFL football player Colin Kaepernick – he who famously took to his knee during the national anthem to highlight racial injustice.

The reaction to the new campaign, which (as of writing this) hasn’t yet aired, was swift and pointed, with some critics burning Nike shoes and clothing in protest and initiating boycotts under the hashtag #JustBurnit.

The NFL, which experienced a decline in television ratings following the kneeling controversy, could no doubt do without its premiere sponsor launching such a controversial campaign at the season opener.

As for Nike, its stock has been increasing steadily for years. Although its value experienced a slight setback in response to this news, the campaign is clearly a very shrewd and calculated move on Nike’s part. 

Why Nike’s right to just do it.

Nike sales have struggled as of late, with several new and high-profile product launches failing to generate much excitement. One could even say that the brand that daringly launched the ‘Just Do It’ campaign featuring Michael Jordon in 1986 has been becoming too mainstream and, for its hardcore advocates, perhaps even a bit tired.

Being viewed as tired, or losing relevance, is the kiss of death for a brand. (Think Blockbuster, Sears and Compaq.) But Nike’s far from done. With the launch of this campaign, the company’s injecting a shot of daring and controversy into its brand strategy and it’s sure to benefit from the hype that ensues.

Sure, Nike may lose some of its older customers, but with Lebron James and Serena Williams – the two most celebrated and admired athletes on the planet – riding to its defence, Nike is reaffirming its relevance to an entirely new generation of customers. 

Nike’s brand is staying on strategy. What about you?

On our Brandmap™, the opposite of a ‘tired’ brand is one that is ‘outspoken’, evokes ‘shock,’ and is seen as ‘pushing the limits.’ For 30 years, ‘pushing personal limits’ has been core to the Nike brand’s DNA. So, with this bold campaign, they’re bang on strategy.

Nike’s being talked about, and for millions of consumers under 40, being relevant. Sure, Nike’s a bit old, but it’s ok to be an older brand. It’s just not ok to be stodgy and out of date, and that’s something many Canadian brands could benefit from reflecting on.

Do you really understand what is at the core DNA level of your brand? Is your brand losing relevance? Is your brand strategy positioned for the next wave of consumers who view the world very differently from aging boomers? How does your brand break out from the clutter and get talked about? If you need a hand figuring this out, you might want to consider giving our BrandMap a try. Connect with us, here.


By: Matt Kelly, Managing Partner

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