Nike: The importance of brand purpose and saliency

Written by The Croc

Running is the largest money-maker for Nike with around $5bn in annual wholesale sales, and to defend against the rise of Adidas’s dominance in the category, in 2016, Nike set out with one of the most ambitious challenges ever seen; to see if someone could run a marathon in under two hours.

The campaign was called ‘Breaking 2’. You might have seen it. Three runners attempted the challenge; LelisaDesisa from Ethiopia, Zersenay Tadese from Eritrea, and Eliud Kipchoge from Kenya.

Nike created a significant advertising campaign around the challenge, comprising of everything from social posts, infographics, video interviews, a live stream and putting the same trainers worn by the runners on sale.

Unfortunately, none of the runners beat the two hour time limit: The fact they didn’t beat the two hour limit didn’t matter. The campaign wasn’t about beating the time.

It was a brand exercise for Nike. The campaign was about bringing Nike’s brand purpose to life in a culturally resonant way.

The ambition.

The will–he/won’t he dilemma.

The highs and lows of the journey the runners went on through their training.

The support of the brand.

The role of the product.

Breaking2 was hugely successful for Nike.

If you want to know more about it, Nike partnered with National Geographic and created an amazing documentary about it, which you can watch on YouTube.

You probably saw in the news a few days ago, that Eliud Kipchoge; one of the original three, had another go. This time, he succeeded.

However, the campaign wasn’t run by Nike.

Nike still provided the trainers (or, sneakers), but the headline sponsor was Ineos; one of the world’s largest chemical producers and a significant player in the oil and gas market a brand that, other than being part of the production of oil, of which, many parts of most trainers are manufactured from, has nothing to do with running.

Then, this happened:

Ineos saw a huge uplift in interest in their brand term. But as a result of the legacy of getting there first, and doing it well, breaking 2 saw a huge uplift too.

This is what is known in the world of brand strategy, as recall, or saliency. Brand salience is the degree to which a brand is thought about or noticed when people are thinking about a particular product, e.g. if you ask people to name a smartphone brand, most people will say ‘Apple’.

Strong brands have high brand salience, and weak brands have little or none.

Brand products, behaviour and communication instils a set of thoughts and beliefs about the brand in your head; what the brand is for and about. Brand advertising acts as a reminder of the brand’s existence. But when it comes to buying something, salience really comes into its own, because where people are so–often faced with choosing between several products that are relatively similar, salience helps you to choose (as irrational as that might be, it’s proven).

So, whilst Nike didn’t run the campaign this time round, it didn’t matter, because for most people, they’re the brand associated with the two–hour marathon.

This is the power of brand marketing, and this exemplifies the importance of significantly investing in brand, and the role of brand in the context of purchase.




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