Nov 2, 2021

Nike: Always Ahead of the Curve

Nike is truly one of the great, marketing-driven organizations. From its early “Just Do It” TV ads to its modern-day collaborations with cultural megastars, Nike has revolutionized the very concept of marketing and what it can achieve.

Although Nike is a giant corporation today, its rise is instructive for marketers at companies of all sizes. Below, we discover the fascinating history of Nike and share the lessons we can all take from their approach to marketing.

The most famous - and successful - collaboration between Nike and a high-profile athlete is its series of ads with basketball giant Michael Jordan. Jordan initially wanted to sign with Adidas, but they made no specific approach to his agent. Nike saw the huge potential of Jordan in his early career and made a pitch that showed their ambition.

Nike’s blockbuster television commercials live long in the public consciousness, yet the partnership with Jordan fundamentally shifted the idea of what sports marketing means. Before Jordan, basketball stars were marketed as part of a team. Nike wanted to push Jordan as an individual, as they would with a tennis star. At the time, Converse (acquired by Nike in 2003) actually charged some NBA teams for shoes. Even Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were not signed up as brand ambassadors by shoe manufacturers.

Nike gave Jordan his own shoes, the Jordan 1, and it took the market by storm. They sold an incredible 126 million pairs of Jordan 1s in the year following their release.

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Clark Boyd
Clark Boyd

Clark Boyd is CEO and founder of marketing simulations company Novela. He is also a digital strategy consultant, author, and trainer. Over the last 12 years, he has devised and implemented international marketing strategies for brands including American Express, Adidas, and General Motors.

Today, Clark works with business schools at the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, and Columbia University to design and deliver their executive-education courses on data analytics and digital marketing. 

Clark is a certified Google trainer and runs Google workshops across Europe and the Middle East. This year, he has delivered keynote speeches at leadership events in Latin America, Europe, and the US. You can find him on X (formerly) Twitter, LinkedIn, and Slideshare. He writes regularly on Medium and you can subscribe to his email newsletter, hi, tech.

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