Nike Shox the World
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report
CEO

Nike Shox the World

No mere product update, Nike Shox represented an entirely new technology. The challenge was to clearly communicate the unique “magic” of Nike Shox in a credible, distinct way that ensured the product’s recognition as a serious technological advancement.

Paul Holmes

 

“What if I had springs on my shoes?” This was the creative inspiration behind Nike Shox. No mere product update, Nike Shox represented an entirely new technology. The challenge was to clearly communicate the unique “magic” of Nike Shox in a credible, distinct way that ensured the product’s recognition as a serious technological advancement—not a gimmick.

 

In March 2000, Nike readied the rollout of Nike Shox, the company’s most significant product launch since Nike Air. Against a backdrop of lagging athletic shoe sales in recent years, Nike Shox was regarded as a potentially powerful catalyst to reinvigorate the marketplace and consumer enthusiasm. Nike set the bar of success high and mandated an unprecedented level of synergy among all elements of the company, from R&D and production to marketing and retail. With partner agency MS&L, Nike engineered a multi-tiered communications strategy that delivered pent-up consumer demand for the product and true word-of-mouth excitement that penetrated daily vernacular. The six-month campaign is considered by Nike’s senior marketing management to be “the best PR campaign in Nike history.”

 

MEASURABLE OBJECTIVES

 

Reach innovator consumers to fuel buzz around Nike Shox and the Nike brand, while building credibility and visibility with key sports and technology media

 

Place Nike Shox stories in the following media segments: sporting goods and footwear trades; sports publications; Popular Science and other engineering books; key business media; the columns of “gear” editors; automotive press; design media; and television, radio and Internet outlets

 

In order to reach the target audiences, it was imperative that clear, consistent and effective communication of Nike Shox key messages appear in at least 80% of all stories:

  • Nike Shox puts springs on your feet. Nike Shox provides the feeling of propulsion for athletes – a new feel in footwear
  • Nike Shox is the result of 16 years of R&D, representing Nike’s unrivaled commitment to innovation
  • Nike Shox is for athletes who strive to jump higher, run farther and “Just Do It”— better

 

Creation of high demand, leading to high sell-through of Nike Shox at US retail and nike.com

 

TARGET AUDIENCES

 

  • Innovators, early adopters and trendsetters who seek out new technologies, love new experiences and value performance. Demographics include predominantly male; college educated; affluent; professional; aged 22–35
  • Committed, brand-loyal sports and fitness athletes and core users — both male and female. Demographics include roughly equal split between male and female; aged 18-35

 

RESEARCH

 

A thorough understanding of Nike Shox technology was critical, so in-depth interviews with Nike engineers and designers (and documentation review) were conducted to gather and document this knowledge

 

Defined target  innovators, early adopters and trendsetters and identified the most effective ways to connect with them using affinity group research, extensive Internet searches, external media reports and MS&L’s consumer tech resources

 

Incorporated intelligence from every unit of the Nike product team, including product development and launch timelines, marketing milestones, upcoming media deadlines, and significant leverageable events along the way

 

STRATEGIC INSIGHTS

 

Nike Shox columns are made from material similar to that used in the jounce bumpers of Formula One race cars, providing a unique connection to the automotive industry and another avenue to reinforce technology messages

 

To build anticipation and generate pre-launch demand for the product, it would be imperative to communicate the unique feeling of Nike Shox to trigger an emotional connection with our key target audiences prior to them ever wearing the shoe

 

Science/technology, automotive, design media (not traditional to Nike) would be critical in driving credibility behind the new technology

 

Revealing the news of Shox in a single announcement would not sustain the attention and excitement of influencers, consumers and media.  To create pent-up demand, consumers would need to encounter Nike Shox messaging/images several times before launch

 

STRATEGIC APPROACH

 

Implement a multi-tiered communications campaign over six months designed to systematically “leak” the news of Nike Shox’ arrival and build consumer excitement while withholding the “full picture” until launch

 

CREATIVE DEVELOPMENT

 

Our goal was to illustrate the unique experience of wearing Nike Shox to people who hadn’t worn them. Key to that was re-creating the feel of Nike Shox via the senses. The thematic tools used to accomplish this included: “Boing,” the one word which wear-testers used time and again to describe the feel of Nike Shox; high-tech, powerful visuals of rocket thrusters and the Nike Sports Research Lab; the Nike Shox Web site, which featured Flix, a series of video shorts that creatively unfolded the story of Nike Shox; and “propulsion music” incorporating the sounds of Nike Shox, from “boing” to rockets.

 

Key elements of the campaign included:

  • Utilize broad range of targeted communications vehicles to reach early adopters and drive word-of-mouth messaging
  • Staggered personalized briefings to meet media agendas and deadlines and deliver coordinated global launch
  • Utilize world’s largest athletic stage, the Olympic Games, to convey authenticity and proof-of-performance
  • Drive consumers to Nike website and NikeTown retail outlets to become the first to own a pair of Shox
  • Capitalize on the intrinsic news value of Nike Shox and push for media opportunities that underscore performance and technology attributes as opposed to large-scale events or activities that could be seen as a marketing ploy

 

PROGRAM EXECUTION

 

Starting with media teasers in May and continuing with viral efforts through to launch, “Boing” buzz was steadily built. Viral posts on 20 Web sites and message boards slowly teased varying aspects of Nike Shox, including 12 Flix installments at nike.com; streaming video of a Vince Carter slam dunk; and posts for the limited edition sale of gold Nike Shox BB4s on nike.com during the Olympics

 

In July, the top 10 national and six international publications were invited to Nike for an intense two-day briefing, including an in-depth look at the R&D behind the product. In August, outreach to 23 long-lead media took place on the rooftop of NikeTown/NY, while top-tier international media were briefed in London and Japan. Briefings were held the following month with five top-tier business outlets

 

To leverage the automotive technology connection, September briefings were conducted with the top eight auto publications in Detroit

 

Prior to launch, Nike Shox was seeded to “Digerati” (the top brains at Earthlink, MP3.com, eBay, BizRate and others), to Formula One racing star Michael Schumacher, who was seen wearing the shoes all over Europe, and to top sportscasters around the country

 

A video news release was distributed nationwide to blanket broadcast media on launch day. Soundbites from engineers, designers and Vince Carter, supplemented with visuals of the Nike Sports Research Lab, underscored key messages.  A radio news release was also distributed with focus on NikeTown markets. Nike Shox e-mails were also sent to more than 200 media on launch day

 

RESULTS

 

PR was the single driving force behind consumer awareness prior to launch. Nike and MS&L exceeded their objectives:

 

Measurable Objective

Result

Reach innovator consumers to fuel buzz around Nike Shox and the Nike brand, while building credibility and visibility with key sports and technology media

Nike’s innovative technology and industry leadership was communicated most clearly with a cover story in Popular Science, the Bible of innovative technology. Nike Shox was chosen for several science/design awards, further confirming the innovative nature of the product and of Nike as a company

Viral efforts generated 715 posts on more than 130 Nike Shox related topics, reaching the core group of innovators. Posts reflected Nike Shox key messages and effectively won over any skeptics. Visitors to the top site (Nike Talk) purchased 27% of the 500 pairs of limited edition Nike Shox released in a nike.com pre-sale event during the Olympics

Place Nike Shox stories in the following media segments: sporting goods and footwear trades; sports publications; Popular Science and other engineering books; key business media; the columns of “gear” editors; automotive press; design media; and television, radio and Internet outlets

Top-tier coverage hit all publications targeted – including the cover of BrandWeek; a 10-page feature in Fast Company; Sports Illustrated; Slam; Men’s Fitness; Runner’s World; Maxim; USA Today; New York Times; Vibe; Seventeen; AutoWeek; Elle; and InStyle

Generated 333 million consumer media impressions representing an advertising equivalency of more than $5.2 million and an impressive12:1 return on investment for Nike

In order to reach the target audiences, it was imperative that clear, consistent and effective communication of Nike Shox key messages appear in at least 80% of all stories

Overall coverage has resulted in 343 placements to date; more than 93% included at least one key message point

 

Creation of high demand, leading to high sell-through of Nike Shox at US retail

Awareness and demand created through PR alone resulted a better than 90% sell through of the Nike Shox R4 running shoe at NikeTowns during the first 10 days of sales. The first day alone generated a 45% sell-through at NikeTown

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