Nike: Marketing Lessons from a Brand Obsessed with Victory

Shoe Dog is a book written by Nike’s founder Phil Knight, telling the story behind starting one of the world’s most valuable brands and marketing lessons for those looking to make their own business more successful.

In Greek mythology, Nike is the goddess of victory. The book outlines how Nike won, and continues to win, the marketing game in the global retail industry.

Nike started as a running shoe company

Everyone within the company was a runner.

They knew exactly what their customers wanted. And when they got into other sports, they consulted top athletes in that sport to find out what they needed both in terms of function and aesthetics.

Lesson: Businesses are all about giving people what they need. Research what your ideal customer wants. And give it to them.

They wanted their product to work both for elite athletes and the regular Joe

They would go to amateur sports events, gyms/fitness centers, tennis courts, and so on to understand everyday consumers and their wants.

Building a brand

According to Phil Knight:

“A brand is something that has a clear-cut identity among consumers, which a company creates by sending out a clear, consistent message over a period of years.”

They wanted to be “the world’s best sports and fitness company and for the Nike brand to represent sports and fitness activities.”

They defined their messaging according to this mission statement.

Nike’s marketing goal was to create an emotional tie with customers

The messaging is what hits the emotions.

They’ve also been willing to get controversial. Colin Kaepernick became a cultural lightning rod for taking a knee during the national anthem of NFL games. Some believed he was calling attention to an important issue. Others felt he was disrespecting the flag/military/country. Irrespective of those opinions, Nike partnering with Kaepernick created lots of buzz and a viral marketing campaign.

But without a good product the marketing is worthless (not to mention disingenuous). Nike started with a good product, then conveyed their philosophy.

Partnering with athletes

Nike was one of the first brands in history to start partnering with athletes directly.

The purpose? Get customers to know the athletes as a “whole person” so they could “win their hearts and their feet.”

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