Nike Soccer: A Lesson in Integration and Coordination


By now, if you haven’t seen Nike’s new “Risk Everything” campaign then you must still be waiting on the Comcast, Verizon or Timewarner guy to show up.  This campaign, handled by Nike’s trusted go-to firm Wieden+Kennedy will inevitably be compared to their “Write The Future” campaign from the 2010 World Cup, though most comparisons will more than likely be limited to two facets; the videos and the overall messages.

In respect to those two aspects, the two campaigns are in fact very similar.  Both videos feature incredibly clean and polished production work, a coordinated mass of numerous Nike sponsored athletes interacting in a game of soccer where the overall message boils down to decisions made by individual players.  There are nuances in each message that are different but it seems reasonable that many comparisons will take that form.

That however, would be ignoring the real reason why “Write the Future” was so successful and why “Risk Everything” is similar and different at the same time. What made WTF such an incredible campaign wasn’t the video itself (Though it is pretty awesome), it was the structure, coordination, and integration of the whole campaign.

WTF started by teasing seconds-long youtube clips months before the actual full length debut.  The video’s debut came on network television during the Champions League Final between Bayern Munich and Inter Milan.  The detail in the timing is critical, not only is the Champions League an Adidas sponsored event, creating a microcosm of the World Cup, but also, it is the first time the Champions League had a nationwide broadcast in the United States, as well as the first time the Champions League final was played on a weekend as opposed to a midweek fixture. These factors combined for an incredible overall reach that broke Super Bowl viewership numbers.

The relentless hype and build up by Nike contributed to making the video and the campaign itself during the World Cup so impressive.  Nike leveraged explicit partnerships with Youtube and Twitter, billboard advertising, a whole train station wrap in Denmark, 3-D outdoor advertising in the form of bronzed statues and a Mt Rushmore of England Players that both take direct inspiration from the video, as well as a giant LED screen placed on the side of a Johannesburg building.

After the release of the video, Nike brought the consumers in to the campaign essentially asking the how they’ve written the future, as well as publishing top “Write the headline” messages submitted online to the giant LED screen.

The constant buzz created through Nike & W+K via the various mediums, coordinated and timed to perfection as well as Nike’s genius impression plan by having every cleat be the same colorway with the trademark orange on the heel meant that even with Adidas being the official sponsor, viewers, fans and consumers all had Nike in their face constantly resulting in Nike being one of the biggest and most successful brands at the World Cup without paying to be an official sponsor.

The social media aspect of WTF is most likely the biggest crossover of the campaign to Risk Everything.  Nike actually released the WTF video before the UCL Final.  The catch was that using their partnership with Youtube, the video was unlisted.  It required a direct link to the video and wasn’t able to be found in searches.  Nike used this to see what kind of traffic it could generate by word of mouth and viral buzz.

Risk Everything, despite the somewhat superficial comparison at the top, differs quite a bit from WTF.  First and foremost, it has a very specific a unique logo, designed by UK design studio ILoveDust,who helped rebrand Nike’s four signature boot silos last year. The logo resembles a biker patch design, but with a soccer ball, dice, a skull and of course the Nike swoosh.

The theme of the logo permeates through every part of the physical marketing that Nike has and will be doing shown here. Surely the nation designs will end up in print advertising, while Nike has already gone for billboard-esque 3-D marketing for the England Home kit using the Risk Everything theme.

Since Nike released the star studded “Risk Everything: Winner Stays” video, the viral machine has just been chugging along.  The difference between this and WTF though is that Nike didn’t tease this campaign the way WTF was.  In fact, “Winner Stays” is the second video from this campaign, the first being about 1/4 of the length.

Additionally, in the months before WTF overall, Nike’s campaigns didn’t really have a hint of any WTF message or theme. Risk everything on the other hand has been preceded by both “Dare to be Brazilian” , and Nike FC, not to mention “Dare to Zlatan”. The theme with most of Nike is empowerment.  WTF highlighted the pivotal moments of a game where individual player make a difference.  Risk Everything blends the message with every regular kid in the Winner Stays video while focusing on it directly at the end of the video with the unnamed kid taking PK from Ronaldo and then Chip shotting Tim Howard.

Nike constantly attempts to convey the ability to win and succeed onto the consumer creating a sense of empowerment and linking a positive sense of reinforcement with Nike’s products and with Nike in general.

Dare to be Brazilian and Nike FC embody that theme as well.  They take the spirit of risk and put it into Brazilian flare, and create a club for it.  Consumers now not only have a sense of empowerment from Nike products but they’ve been reinforced by a sense of inclusion as well.  It wouldn’t be a Nike campaign if they didn’t highlight all their new products either.  The video shows almost every major national team kit as well as the new Nike Magista and Mercurial flyknit boots.

With only a few players overlapping in the various campaigns, Risk Everything becomes the culminating push in this overall campaign of empowerment delivered primarily through social media.  Television, billboards, public events and showcases, even print will all still be utilized in what will surely be an integrated and coordinated campaign on the level if not higher than WTF but with no teasers and not big time debut.  WTF set the foundation for Risk Everything to get the ball rolling faster and easier.

It’s clear Nike learned that if they put it up, they will come…They obviously have to do more than just put it up but you get the idea.  Integration and coordination remains a staple of Nike’s campaigns and it is what will continue to make them more popular from a marketing and creative standpoint than Adidas.  What will change is the mediums of focus and nuances in the messages that Nike’s and W+K’s coordination and implementation chooses to promote.

Reporting on the business side of the world's game.