Brand: Nike Basketball (Nike)
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Nike Basketball’s new campaign for LeBron James features four spots each of which have LeBron playing four different parts: “Wise” (a greying, bearded, older version of LeBron past his glory days), “Kid” (the LeBron dreamer and wannabe in his pre-high-school years), “All Business,” (the slick-suited image-obsessed self-promoter that we imagine many of these players to be off the court) and “Athlete,” (LeBron himself, more or less). Each of the spots, “Glory Days,” “New Shoes,” “Butter,” and “Celebration,” focuses on a domestic theme and hits comedy rather than court action. In Glory Days, Wise tries to put Athlete in his place with tales of old. In ‘Butter’ Kid dreams of being a great athlete but can’t get dinner rolls off of his mind. In ‘ Celebration’ all four LeBrons show off their dancing while celebrating Athlete’s being the youngest player to reach 4,000 points. In ‘New Shoes,’ Kid brings home a new pair of shoes to show Wise while Business mouths off.
Wieden & Kennedy has produced a highly entertaining series of spots which showcase LeBron’s versatility (he’s no Russell Crowe, but he’s not Shaq, either) in four roles. The spots seek to fracture the soul of the basketball player and show the different selves competing for attention. They are well-executed, watchable, engaging and fast-paced.
This advertising blog is written by former brand managers who are in the day-to-day business of training consumer marketers. When we teach advertising strategy, one example of consistency and narrowness of focus we point to is Nike.
Look at Nike commercials, we say, who do you see in them? (Answer – serious athletes, star and ordinary alike.) What are they doing? (They are exercising, working hard.) What is the weather like in Nike world? (If the spot is shot outside it is often raining, miserable and unhappy.) So where is Nike’s focus? (On the serious athlete.) But who buys Nike? (Everyone)
Nike has for years been a perfect example for us of a company that attracts a wide base of consumers by marketing to a narrow audience of serious athletes. This laserlike focus on the serious athlete gives Nike credibility with everyone else, from the casual golfer (those shoes will make me more like Tiger) to the overweight slacker (I look great in these cross-trainers!). By focusing on serious athletes, Nike becomes the expert in performance in the category.
Now Nike is facing a serious challenge from German powerhouse Adidas which has enjoyed a resurgence over the past several years. The two rivals are going head-to-head for the coveted U.S. market. And with this campaign, which diverts seriously from the long-term Nike strategy, Nike has just blinked.
It is pointless to argue the technical merits of this campaign or whether it will appeal to teenage and pre-teenage boys as Nike hopes. This campaign fails because it is bad strategy and endangers Nike’s brand positioning. Nike is not cute, funny, lovable or cuddly. It doesn’t tease and jest and try to be your best friend. Nike is about effort. It is about the last mile, the last shot, the last putt. It is about champions who others can beat in the first quarter but nobody can beat in the last sixty seconds of the game.
By turning aside from this strategy, Nike has committed a serious strategic error and played into Adidas’ hands.
Branding Bottom Line:
We are selling our Nike stock.