Nike Sprints Ahead of the Competition, Yet Has a Long Way to Run

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Nike, Inc.(, located in Beaverton, Oregon, is the number one U.S. athletic footwear company and one of the most recognized American brands among foreign consumers. This high degree of recognition is one of the main reasons Nike has been so successful. For the 2001 fiscal year ended May 31, 2001, the company continued to soar, with sales of over $9.5 billion.

Perhaps such success could be attributed to its concept - based advertising campaigns. The company uses a process that is often called “image transfer”. Nike ads traditionally did not specifically place a product – or mention the brand name. A mood or atmosphere was created and then the brand is associated with that mood. “We don’t set out to make ads. The ultimate goal is to make a connection,” states Dan Weiden, executive of one of Nike’s ad agencies. One ad featured the Beatles and clips of Nike athletes, Michael Jordan and John McEnroe, juxtaposed with pictures of regular folks also engaged in sports. It was used to infer that real athletes prefer Nike and that perhaps if the general audience buys the brand they will play better too. Nike’s unpredictable image-based ads have ranged from shocking, such as its portrayal of real blood and guts in a “Search and Destroy” campaign usesd during the 1996 Olympic games, to humorous, such as the first ad used to launch Michael Jordan’s Jordan brand wear. The latter advertising made the tongue – in – cheek suggestion that Jordan himself had a hand in production by slipping away from a Bulls’ game at half time to run over to his company and then return in time for the game’s second half.

In 1998, Nike shifted to a new phase in its marketing strategy. Nike emphasized more of its product innovation skills than the jockey, edgy attitude that it displayed in previous years. “We recognize that our ads need to tell consumers that we’re about product innovation and not just...
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