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How Nike Got Its Marketing Right This Pandemic, And What We Can Learn

Nike’s “Just Do It” war cry is instantly recognizable. From it’s iconic ‘Its Play for the World’ and ‘You Can’t Stop Us’ marketing campaigns, Nike has always found a way to connect to its audiences.

That same “Just Do It” war cry is also marketed around during this pandemic. It has resonated with billions around who are struggling to cope with death, loss of jobs and loss of opportunities.

We take a look at Nike’s recent campaigns and the marketing lessons we can learn from. Do they get their messaging right during these trying times?


Nike’s tryst with emotional branding

Nike has always been masters of emotional branding. Almost any campaign of theirs manages to strike a balance through its response.

Through themes related to inspiration, performance, and determination, Nike engages with their ardent customers. The perspective is kept neutral, even though sports is the driving factor.

Anybody who wants to lead an active lifestyle relates to Nike advertisements.

But the pandemic has robbed daily joggers and highest paid athletes of their daily routine.

Could Nike come up with something for that? They actually did.

The ‘Play for the World’ campaign was created by Wieden and Kennedy. It urges people around the world to play inside their home. Lebron James and Sara Hughes are seen in the video. We feel the idea behind featuring lesser known names was to fit into the narrative of ‘We are all in this together’.


Then came the ‘You Can’t Stop Us’ campaign. An absolute monster of an advertisement that shows how tougher times have existed in the past and the pandemic will one day be remembered as a triumph.



Praise in the Marketing World

The response to both these campaigns have been overwhelming. It gets the messaging, targeting, and delivery right.

Nike also went a step further and offered free access to it’s paid Nike Training Club app. It delivers training programs, expert tips and workouts.

Despite facing a loss of close to $790 million towards the end of Q2, with sales revenue down to $6.3 billion, Nike stayed true to its targeting.

For nearly two months, 90% of Nike-owned stores were shut. And then, just like how Nike usually depicts a positive upturn in its campaigns, sales number grew by 75%.

Matt Friend, Nike CFO, said that “A more digitally connected Nike is a more valuable Nike.”

He was inclining towards Nike’s focus in creating a digital marketplace.

Nike’s experience teaches just how volatile the digital economy is. Even the strongest brands are dependent on physical retail. With the pandemic showing no sign to ease, it gets hard for even a marketing juggernaut such as Nike to predict consumer behaviour and trends.


Speaking of engagement, here is a piece on content types that engage. Click here to read on


What can we learn from Nike?

Nike came up with the #PlayInside campaign that encouraged consumers to take action within their homes. They introduced #TheLivingRoomCup – a digital workout series where athletes set challenges for users to perform at home.

Cristiano Ronaldo started it and used the above hashtags to good effect. This broke a barrier directly. Anybody doing these workouts at home belongs to an influencer’s community by using the tags.

Free workout classes were live streamed on YouTube on Sundays. This was a way to pledge the free access being granted to the Nike Training Club app.

Nike’s Community Impact Fund, pledged nearly $17 million towards the Covid-19 cause. These humanitarian gestures help reinforce the company’s branding. Nike is also working on converting footwear materials into PPE equipment. Products here include helmets and full-face shields. This shows the company’s human side. People remember such acts of service during tough times.


Nike’s messaging has been authentic. Marketing campaigns shouldn’t look like it is taking advantage of the pandemic. The messaging shouldn’t imply any capitalising of opportunities. Nike avoids that by aligning itself with its brand values and using a human tone.

Well, Nike’s marketing ploy has worked wonders, and is set to be remembered for long. How have other brands reacted to the pandemic? Let us know about some brands in the comments below.



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