Nike: Just do it. Differently!

Nike is responding to the COVID-19 by leveraging its digital resources to connect athletes with customers, strengthening its digital ecosystem and boosting online sales.

Just do It, at Home!

Nike is well known for its branding, marketing and advertisement strategy, which is considered a best practice by many scholars and practitioners in the marketing space.  From a simple and powerful logo that represents the iconic brand, to a long-lasting slogan that calls for action and attitude. At the same time, the company associates its image with high performance athletes and a lifestyle that everyone somehow pursues.

The company’s main slogan “Just do it”, created back in 1987, calls for movement, action, empowerment and initiative. So, what about now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, when everybody is stuck at home? without gyms, without social gathering, no jogging and no social interactions where you would have the opportunity to show off your new Nike air? How to send its message and keep customers engaged while they pretty much stay at home?

Impact of COVID-19

Just like many other companies in the consumer and fashion industry, Nike was heavily affected by COVID-19 lockdown. As a global brand with 1,100 stores, Nike closed more than half of stores in China as early as February to protect its employees;  and decided, by mid-march to close all stores in the US, as the virus started to spread in the country. Even for stores that remained opened, the foot traffic has declined significantly.

 Nike’s response

In response to the pandemic, Nike boosted its digital strategy and its direct sales, and adapted its message to the “new normal’. Nike created different digital spaces for customers to interact with the brand’s big influencers: the high-performance athletes.

With slogans like: ”Play inside”, “ Play for the World”, “You can’t stop us” featuring athletes and regular people playing in their living rooms or backyards, Nike is reducing the distance between these athletes and their customers and keeping customers engaged during lockdown.

The company also deployed many digital contents and platforms for free:

  •  Nike’s digital ecosystem: A library of digital workouts and resources for free, including Nike App, Nike Training Club App (NTC), Nike  Running Club App (NRC), social channels, nike.com , and its podcast TRAINED.
  •  Livestream workouts. Live workouts are streamed every Saturday by Nike Master Trainers for free on the Nike Youtube channel.
  •  Digital Fitness Challenges. A flagships initiative during the COVID lockdown has been the The Living Room Cup– a digital workout series where athletes set challengers for users to take part in at home. Global Athletes like Lebron James or Cristiano Ronaldo stream themselves doing a workout and challenge users to compete against them. Players can share their results on their Instagram profiles using the hashtags #playinside and #thelivingroomcup.

Just like its slogan says, Nike campaigns are not only informative, they are actually pushing customers to do something!  Using the COVID-19 as a marketing campaign may seem opportunistic, but for Nike, it goes beyond that, it is a matter of connecting to customers and keeping the business and the brand alive in customer’s mind !

If you can make some sales in the process, much better!

So, the question is: Is this working? Is the company able to monetize it?

Recent Results

Nike stocks recently soared 11% in the latest earnings announcements, reflecting an increase in online-order and passing Wall Street estimates. It is clear that Nike is taking the opportunity of COVID-19 to engage even more with customers and to expedite its online sales.

 

 

 

 

The “Digital Transformation” at the forefront of Nike’s brand strategy

The digital offerings Nike is leveraging during the Pandemic is not an isolated initiative, it is a result of a “digital transformation” that has been in the forefront of Nike’s brand strategy for several years now.

Nike has put digital in the center of its strategy as a key enabler of the so-called ‘Consumer Direct Offense’. The plan is to improve its digital marketplace toward boosting online direct sales model, and cutting back on certain parts of its wholesale business.

In that same line, the company recently announced its new CEO, appointed in October 2019. John Donahoe, a long-time tech executive has been on Nike’s board since 2014 and was president and CEO of eBay for seven years.

Some of the other key elements and capabilities of the digital transformation at Nike are:

  • Social commerce. The numerous mobile apps and platforms create an ecosystem that integrate the social component with shopping-centric apps and convert customer’s engagement into sales.
  • “Sneakerheads” Platform. The launch of the SNRKS app, intended for “sneakerheads”, offering limited-release, high demand shoes for its most-engaged customers is being used as a key source of ideas and suggestions for new designs to a bigger customer base.
  • Analytics. Nike uses its digital ecosystem to collect data in every interaction and in its different channels, to identify customers preferences and to design new products.

Conclusion

Nike has been one of the few companies that spot on with its response to  COVID-19 by showing social responsibility when closing stores early, creating new space to engage with customers during the pandemic, and by taking the opportunity to expedite its digital transformation. The world will be different after COVID-19, and Nike wants to keep its place as an iconic brand and a company that sells a lifestyle that still make sense in the “new normal”.

 

Nike News. “All The Ways Nike Is Helping Athletes Play Inside — for the World.”https://news.nike.com/news/nike-play-inside-play-for-the-world.

Bain, Marc. “Nike’s App for Sneakerheads Is Fueling Its Digital Business.” Quartz. https://qz.com/quartzy/1655111/nikes-snkrs-app-is-fueling-its-digital-business/.

“Nike’s Digital Strategy Is to Treat Everyone the Way It Treats Sneakerheads.” Quartz. https://qz.com/quartzy/1747382/how-nikes-snkrs-app-community-inspired-its-digital-strategy/.

Gillil, Nikki. “How Nike Is Striking the Right Tone with Its Response to Covid-19.” Econsultancy (blog), April 15, 2020. https://econsultancy.com/how-nike-is-striking-the-right-tone-with-its-response-to-covid-19/.

Hanbury, Mary. “Analysts Say Nike’s New CEO Choice Signals a Direction That Should Worry Some Mom-and-Pop and Department Stores.” Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/nike-new-ceo-choice-digital-strategy-warning-retailers-2019-10.

“Nike Leaps 11% After Results Suggest It’s Weathering Virus Era.” Bloomberg.Com, March 24, 2020. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-24/nike-sales-top-estimates-as-it-weathers-early-days-of-covid-19.

Mobile Marketer. “Nike Offers Workout App for Free as COVID-19 Keeps People Indoors.” Accessed https://www.mobilemarketer.com/news/nike-offers-workout-app-for-free-as-covid-19-keeps-people-indoors/574721/.

Rival IQ. “What You Can Learn from Nike Branding Strategy,” March 16, 2018. https://www.rivaliq.com/blog/nike-branding-strategy/.

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3 thoughts on “Nike: Just do it. Differently!

  1. It’s really cool to be able to see how Nike’s digital strategy is actually playing out during this pandemic. I am curious to see if these engagement / online sales numbers extend after the pandemic is over. Specifically, since online sales are increasing across the board at most ecommerce compnies, is this just a macro effect, or is it really because the digital apps that Nike has invested in is really helping to drive that growth? Another question I had was whether this growth will be sustained throughout the pandemic. It does seem that a lot of people were massively buying items especially in the beginning but as quarantine became more normalized, the buying has been shown to taper off. Will that especially be the case for sneakers since we’re not going outside as often now?

  2. Interesting post! Thank you for sharing.

    I hadn’t heard of a lot of these initiatives – including the Living Room Cup, which is a great way for Nike to maintain engagement with its customers during the pandemic. Nike clearly is now generating far more data, via these digital channels, than they were before. I wonder how well equipped Nike is to take advantage of this data? It seems they have been building up their analytics capability over the past few years – with the acquisitions of data analytics companies Zodiac and Celect – so they’re probably well-positioned.

    I also wonder how they can maintain this data capture in a post-coronavirus world – I would love to see them use their digital ecosystem to support the in-store shopping experience (e.g., to instantly check stock). Given the acceleration in adoption of their digital ecosystem, due to coronavirus, the business-case for developing these features has become even stronger!

  3. Great post! I studied Nike’s data analytics, digital strategy and its ” consumer direct offense” for my last post:
    https://digital.hbs.edu/platform-digit/submission/nike-just-do-it-with-data-science-and-demand-sensing/

    Indeed it has been working very hard on its digital strategy even before COVID happened and because of that infrastructure in place, they are able to reap benefits now. They are focused on collecting as much user information as possible to make their datasets robust for analytics. It is, therefore, crucial for them to remain connected with their consumers at this time when stores are closed so that they can continue getting information about them. These fitness apps are one great way of doing so.

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