Nike’s History of Utilizing Motivational Strategy
Written by Matt Clement
Rocky. Remember the Titans. The Blind Side. Rudy. Every fundamental feel-good movie starts with a character who beats the odds, takes a chance, and defeats naysayers. Aptly dubbed “the underdog,” the idea of overcoming something against all odds has become an essential narrative in today’s society. Nike history is marked with an innate pull towards stories of overcoming adversity, which has led to their focus on inspirational storytelling as a marketing staple.
Take, for example, Nike’s most-watched video on YouTube. Entitled, “Nike – Dream Crazy,” this video has amassed almost 30 million views with strong reactions in the comment section overflowing with remarks of emotion and inspiration.
Although the “Dream Crazy” campaign’s popularity was due, in part, to the emotional appeal of rooting for the underdog, its success can also be attributed to Colin Kaepernick’s role as the face of the campaign. Notorious for kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality, Kaepernick was the ultimate candidate for the newest face of Nike in 2018. Using controversy as a driving force, Nike’s support of the disenfranchised through a minority athlete with a large following was a direct tactic to connect with the opinions of target consumers.
However, this campaign was not the first time in Nike history that they’ve pushed the limits of brand involvement in political activism. Having employed this strategy for well over two decades, one of Nike’s earliest partnerships was in 1995 with Ric Munoz, a gay and HIV positive runner. The ad’s message about supporting raw determination paired perfectly with the infamous “Just Do It” slogan, as Ric’s story of determination to run 80 miles a week was not hindered by his physically exhausting illness. As one of the first controversial athletes to pair with Nike, this cemented Nike’s future endeavors into the political arena.
From this brand, it’s evident that pairing activism with the influence of celebrities has become the golden recipe for creating buzz around products. From Serena Williams to Andressa Alves, Colin Kaepernick, Caster Semenya, Rafael Nadal, Alex Roca Campillo, Elina Svitolina, and even Michael Jordan, countless athletes have partnered with Nike to relay their own underdog stories. “I’ve taken the final shot 26 times and missed,” said Michael Jordan in his Nike commercial entitled, “Failure.” “I’ve failed over and over in my life. And that is why I succeed,” he concluded.
From activism to celebrity endorsements, and an “underdog” mentality, Nike’s history of controversy has created the perfect concoction for sustainable success. By focusing on causes that are particularly important in today’s climate, there is no doubt that as society and culture change, this athletic brand will continue to lead the conversation.
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