How does Nike communicate its values to its target audience?
The overall communication of the brand values has been built on a strong principle which states that Nike is selling a feeling, an emotion. Without seeing or directly experiencing the product, they convey a feeling to the audience to experience what it would be like to use their products. This is promoted through all types of media in the following ways:
• through famous spokespersons, top athletes
• by depicting inspirational stories
• by creating emotional connections between the viewer and the depicted person
• by motivating the viewer directly.
Famous athletic personalities
Whether football or basketball, tennis or golf, running or Olympic sports, Nike has always recruited top performance athletes from all over the world with strong personalities consistent with the brand values. For instance, Michael Jordan started appearing in swoosh campaigns at the rise of his basketball career, in 1987, and so did Dennis Rodman and Charles Barkley. High performance athletes have always been role models with extreme power over their audience (mainly teenagers and young people) often influencing them into buying products not otherwise thought of.
From my point of view, this is the most successful way Nike has ever used to communicate its values. Because the target audience admire and connect to their role models as people who have achieved top performance through their individual skills and often identify with them. A television commercial from 1996 depicts accurately this method. Children of various nationalities say the phrase I am Tiger Woods implying that the famous golfer is their role model.
Nike has very often built its communication on inspirational stories around sports and fitness. Whether shown in pictures or verbally transmitted, these stories are personal, sometimes emotional and/or referring to the past.
For example, a series of promotional material was produced in 2007 starring Oscar Pistorius, a Paralympics World Record holder and his personal story. Despite having been born with a disability, he has succeeded in breaking the world record forty-nine times by being determined and using his individual skills. I strongly believe that this story can be very inspirational for every one, because they can see the value of both individuality and determination to succeed which lead to victory.
The whole Nike experience has always intended to be communicated as a feeling, an emotion. Besides this fact, sometimes this is achieved by creating or growing emotional connections between the viewer and the person in the advertisement. For instance, the Just Do It strategy was first expanded over to women with “a mix of empathy, inspiration and empowerment. It spoke to women in a voice that was intimate yet strong, philosophical yet honest” (Bedbury, 2002). Staying close to the swoosh values, this campaign formed strong connections with its viewers, covering women-only experiences and emotions only women can feel.
Another characteristic campaign which uses emotional connections to convey the swoosh values is a series of print advertisements from 2005 which celebrate the individuality of women. Showing parts of their athletic body emotionally connected with them, women feel confident to use their ‘weapons’ in order to achieve victory in the battlefield of sports. From my point of view, a very simple and effective way to make someone feel special and therefore connected to the brand.
The swoosh experience has strongly been connected to hard work, dedication, human power and desire to succeed. So are the spokespersons in the advertisements, always displayed doing what they are a master in. Besides wearing top quality Nike gear they are shown working hard, sweating, or reflecting on events from the past. As a result, the target audience connects the brand with the effort and determination needed to succeed and therefore is motivated to improve their own “game”, whether everyday running or basketball.
I believe that motivation is one of the main ways every sports brand should convey its values. In my opinion, what makes Nike so successful is the fact that it persistently promotes motivation in its campaigns. For example, a television commercial named Tell Me, in 1996 probably, shows Michael Jordan in the court after returning from his short retirement from basketball. He challenges the viewer by saying “Disrespect me. Tell me I am older. Tell me I am slower. Tell me I can no longer fly. I want you to” (Youtube.com, 2010). From my point of view, the success of this commercial lies in the fact that the viewer is motivated to work hard, create his individual history and become as successful as Jordan is in basketball, so no one would be able to tell him that he has lost his unique skills.