Just Do It: Why Nike Is a Marketing Leader

23 June 2022
by Annie-Mai Hodge
4 mins
Just Do It: Why Nike Is a Marketing Leader

Nike’s marketing and advertising campaigns are among the most memorable and recognisable in the world.

Everyone has seen or can recall a classic ad with the evergreen “Just Do It” motto, whether it features a sports megastar such as Tiger Woods or is focused on the power of local communities, with eye-catching sequences and editing.

The famous swoosh logo needs no introduction either, nor do Nike’s high-quality sports apparel and footwear.

But it’s the company’s core values that regularly take its marketing campaigns to the next level. Defined in Nike’s own mission statement, these are “inspiration, innovation, every athlete in the world, authentic, connected, and distinctive.”

From these values, Nike builds out its marketing strategy and creates excellent content that inspires audiences while strengthening its own brand.

This is something that Nike has been successfully doing for decades. Its modern marketing success dates back to the 1970s when running for fitness first became a popular pastime, and it was able to position its clothing and footwear as part of the trend.

Fast forward to 2022 and Nike has successfully aligned its products with elite sports including basketball, football, golf, athletics and many others.

The Air Jordan brand alone generates a staggering $3.14bn annually, driven by hugely successful ads featuring basketball star Michael Jordan.

Nike is also known for its collaborations with successful sports teams such as Manchester United and the New York Yankees.

However, it doesn’t neglect the grassroots level either and regularly showcases local cultures and communities in its multi-channel marketing on social media, TV, radio and print.

Analysts who have studied Nike’s marketing success believe this ability to cater to a wide target audience has set the company apart from the rest.

Nike understands that it needs to create content tailored for different nationalities and demographics, and uses a mix of platforms to deliver messages effectively.

In recent years, Nike has recognised that its immense brand power can be used to support important social causes too.

Authors G. Knight and J. Greenberg have noted how Nike is able to use endorsements and sponsorships that both highlight these issues and offer solutions to them.

It all adds up to a juggernaut marketing and ad strategy that costs more than $3bn each year.

While the sheer scale of that investment is impossible for smaller companies to match, there is a lot to learn from Nike’s strategic approach to the process.

Tell great stories

Nike’s success is driven by an aspirational approach to messaging. When it advertised its running shoes in 1970, it wanted consumers to not only think that the trainers are better, but that Nike products are the best for getting fit and in shape. Nike thinks beyond the core desire for a single purchase and connects it to something greater.

It also helps when the product is desirable and easy to sell, which enables Nike to focus on telling great, inspirational stories instead. These stories often emphasise both a sense of belonging and a desire to be the best. The quest to be faster and stronger is central to many of Nike’s advertising videos.

Leverage social media marketing

Nike has also been able to adapt to the new world of social media marketing, as evidenced by its staggering 225m follower count on Instagram. Again, Nike uses tweets, images and other posts to push itself as a healthy lifestyle motivator rather than just trying to hard-sell its products. It uses a range of succinct, powerful slogans and hashtags to engage audiences too.

Influencer marketing is another key aspect of Nike’s social strategy, as it regularly collaborates with stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, LeBron James and Serena Williams. A recent post on Instagram featuring Ronaldo with a #teamnike hashtag generated an impressive 2.5m likes. Nike has also worked with athletes on social media to support #BlackLivesMatter, which is a hashtag that remains in its bio on Twitter and Instagram.

Nike’s ability to generate a buzz online is unmatched in the sportswear industry, as it regularly generates twice as many brand mentions as its rival, Adidas. Nike’s strategy is aided by the running of multiple social accounts for different sports, which allows it to create targeted content for different audiences.

Optimise for search engines

Nike’s SEO strategy is working too, according to data from Semrush, which shows that around 60m users navigate to its website from search every month.

These visits are often lengthy, with users clicking through five different pages and spending seven minutes and 23 seconds on the site, on average. Nike’s 35% bounce rate falls in the 26%-40% range that is typically classed as “optimal”.

Nike’s social media success no doubt plays a major role in boosting its visibility in search results for target keywords, as does its general expertise, authority and brand presence. Using SEO services that put the onus on regular content distribution on websites and social media is critical for this reason.

Enhance online user experience

Nike’s strong performance in search can also be attributed to its polished and fast-loading online website, which is intuitive and user-friendly. Nike uses a mix of professional lifestyle photos for each product, complete with in-depth product details and options to either purchase them in-store or online. It also uses videos on the homepage and on category pages that feature the products “in action”.

Nike’s use of content extends to long-form videos, which are used to educate and inform rather than showcase products. The company’s YouTube mini-series, Margot vs Lilly, was well received by its target audience – young women with an interest in both fashion and fitness. Brands can use blogs and articles for similar purposes.

Nike is also adept at tailoring experiences for different regions, both on social media and on its website, the latter of which automatically detects the language and location of each visitor. Cultural preferences are catered for too, with Nike’s Brazil site featuring more bold and colourful images on the front page.

All of this demonstrates just how effective the right digital marketing strategy can be. If you want to follow Nike’s lead and start using social media accounts and your website to publish high-quality content and tell great stories that will engage audiences and boost your online and search presence, contact us today. We offer a range of services, including content creation and blog management.

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