Nike Marketing Strategy – How Nike Does it

Posted on October 27, 2016

How Nike advertises to be ahead of its competitors?

Since its beginnings in 1964, Nike (originally Blue Ribbon Sports) has become one of the most recognizable brands in the world, instantly identifiable by their simple “swoosh” logo (which was created by design student Carolyn Davidson for $35).Their innovative products are, of course, partially responsible for their popularity, but their creations would do them little good without the fantastic marketing strategy support system that backs them up.

Nike Marketing Strategy

Nike Marketing Strategy

In the Beginning

Nike’s attitude toward marketing has changed quite a bit during its 40+ year history. In the beginning, Nike thought of itself as a production-oriented company, with emphasis being put on the design and manufacturing processes, as their innovations in those areas was what initially set Nike apart from the rest of the competition. However, in the 1990s, after a period of self-examination brought on by business mishaps, Nike took a more customer and marketing-centered approach.

In a 1992 interview with the Harvard Business Review, CEO Phil Knight commented on this change, stating, “We used to think that everything started in the lab. Now we realize that everything spins off the customer. And while technology is still important, the consumer has to lead innovation. We have to innovate for a specific reason, and that reason comes from the market. Otherwise, we’ll end up making museum pieces.”

The Changing Shape of Nike Marketing Strategy

For years, Nike successfully relied on large print and television advertising campaigns that celebrated a single hit, whether it be one of their new products or one of their sponsorees. The taglines “Just Do It” and “Bo Knows” became synonymous with the Nike brand, instantly recognizable. Now, however, Nike has moved away from these types of advertisments. From 2009 to 2012, Nike’s spending on traditional advertising dropped by 40% and decreased ever since, even as its marketing budget grew to a company record of $2.4 billion. Where is all of that money going? Answer: to advertising techniques that take advantage of new technologies and that allow them to communicate directly with their target audience—17-year olds who spend 20% more on shoes than their adult counterparts.

Emotional Branding

Emotional branding is a type of marketing technique that uses an appeal to a customer’s needs, aspirations, or emotional state in order to build a particular brand. Emotional branding is at its most powerful when consumers feel a lasting attachment to the brand that is much like bonding, love, or companionship. These feelings may or may not be rational, but they don’t have to be.

When it comes to emotional branding, Nike is one of the best; perhaps it is because they rely on a story that is thousands of years old, that of the Hero. Very few can resist the appeal of a Hero story—two mighty powers pitted against one another, an exciting battle, and the triumphant return—especially they themselves are the Hero in the story.

Nike Marketing Strategy - Emotional Branding.jpg

Nike Marketing Strategy – Emotional Branding

Nike ad celebrating Mo Farah Olympic wins

Nike ad celebrating Mo Farah Olympic wins

Nike uses this old-as-time structure differently than most by focusing on an internal foe rather than an external enemy. That foe? Laziness. These types of Nike commercials are meant to motivate consumers to get up, to keep going, to continue pushing, and, in short, “just do it.”Nike advertisements celebrate hard work and victory, specifically that of the consumer over their “lazy side” and they target their consumers’ desire for greatness.

Nike is so successful at this that their ads do not just touch athletes, but everyone, as aspirations of greatness are things that most individuals have, giving the strategy near-universal appeal.

Check out the examples below for some of Nike’s print and television advertisements that use emotional branding:

Warhawk Matt Scott in Nike’s “No Excuses” Commercial

Michael Jordan in Nike’s “Failure” Commercial

And even though Nike has switched from focusing on television and print ads to marketing in the digital realm, their use of emotional branding has not waned. Whether it is sending out motivational messages via Twitter, or showcasing the most accomplished athletes on their Facebook pages, or even their Instagram content, Nike is still connecting to the consumer in a way that few corporations have.

Social Media

Nike Marketing Strategy How Nike does it

Nike Advertising Strategy How Nike does it

Like the majority of large corporations, Nike has learned the benefits of an expansive social media presence. The company uses its social media accounts to connect directly with their customers and they are one of the most active corporations online in this respect.


Nike has separate Twitter accounts for its subsidiary brands and for each feed, the focus is largely directed towards responding to @mentions. This means that a large portion of the activity on Nike’s Twitter accounts is made up of responses to individual customer queries, allowing consumers to connect directly with a corporation in a way that would have never been possible in the past. Nike’s staff answers questions about products, stock information, and orders—all on an individual basis. This is in addition to their dedicated Nike Support feed, which exists solely to help resolve questions and address consumer needs.

On the feeds for its subsidiary brands (golf, football, basketball, etc.), one can often find training advice, product details, have queries answered (as with the other feeds), and give out encouragement and motivational messages.


Nike’s Instagram is the most popular brand account currently on the site, boasting an impressive 13.2 million followers. Using both videos and artfully-taken photographs, Nike presents a favorable image of its brand on its main account and its child accounts (like nike running). The company really understands what Instagram is about and what its users want to see, so their accounts are filled with gorgeous landscapes and pictures of people using their products, shot in a natural, organic way, not like catalogue photos. Additionally, Nike offers a tool called NIKEPHOTOiD, which allows customers to use their Instagram photos to customize their trainers.


At one point in time, Nike’s Pinterest page was solely dedicated to its Nike Women products, but such is not the case anymore. Currently, there are twenty boards containing their miscellaneous lines of shoes, holiday wear, and accessories. However, at this time, it appears as if Nike has only pinned its own products and content, which is a real shame. Pinterest is a great way for companies to display their company values and culture, but Nike has chosen to use it more as a product catalogue than a creative marketing tool.


Though not nearly as impressive as their Facebook or Twitter accounts, Nike’s Google+ platform has come a long way, as it used to look as if it had been made as an afterthought. At the time this piece was written, they had 3,571,462 followers and 34,954,138 views and their page was filled with information about new products and technology.

Nike Football (Soccer to those who live in the States) also has its own page, though it seems to have been rather neglected as far as posting goes.


Nike has separate Facebook pages for each of its product categories. The dedicated sports pages are usually updated daily with pictures and videos, often featuring the players sponsored by the company as well as Nike products.


Digital Sport

Nike Digital Sport is a relatively new division at Nike, launched in 2010 (the same year they spent $800 million on nontraditional advertising), which focuses on developing technology and devices that enable users to track their personal fitness statistics. The most well-known component of Digital Sport is the Nike+ running sensor, which was developed with Apple. The product has at least six million users. Nike+ tracks athletic performance through a wireless connection. Data is stored on the Nike website and users can post and share their workout information via Twitter and Facebook. It requires a Nike+ sensor, Nike+-compatible footwear, and a Nike+ tracking device. More recently, Nike has created the FuelBand, which measures energy output.

 What does all of this mean for Nike? It gets them up close and personal with their customers, allowing them to create an online community for their users and forging even tighter relationships between company and consumer.  


Nike’s adoption of digital means of advertising has reaped incredible gains for the company and won them millions of fans. By recognizing that print and television ads were no longer great vehicles for their product, Nike has been able to stay ahead of the majority of their competition by learning how to best use social media and emerging technologies.

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