Nike China: Reinventing the Athlete Tour

Campaign Summary

For the launch of its KD 9 shoe line, Nike and NBA star Kevin Durant created a campaign based on one of Durant’s personal passions: the  NBA2K Online video game. Chinese basketball fans competed in a virtual tournament for the chance to play Durant, well-known for his proficiency in the video game, one on one. Throughout the campaign, Durant engaged fans online, and introduced a virtual pair of KD 9s for the game.


Objective and Context:

NBA player Kevin Durant came to the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou in July 2016 to launch his new shoes, the KD 9s. Nike wanted to create a revolutionary event format that maximized reach and genuine fan engagement with Durant.

Target Audience:

Due to Durant’s popularity in China, Nike’s activation targeted all basketball fans.

Creative Strategy:

Nike’s campaign was based on two key insights:

  • Durant is highly skilled at the  NBA2K Online video game (not always a given for professional athletes), which he had talked about in various interviews with national media outlets.
  • The  NBA2K Online game was an ideal platform to reach every basketball fan in the country, due to its immense popularity in China.

Nike invited  NBA2K Online players to compete for the honor of representing the best in China in a one-on-one game against Durant.


Overall Campaign Execution:

The “Play KD Show” was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for a fan to play Durant one-on-one, virtually and in the real world. The partnership with  NBA2K Online allowed Nike to scale the event easily. Millions of fans from anywhere could watch a fellow player take on an NBA superstar in a virtual battle. The tournament was broadcast live across China on the No. 1 basketball broadcaster, Tencent NBA, as well as the largest social network, WeChat, boasting a subscriber base of over 800 million Chinese people.

Mobile Execution:

The  NBA2K Online tournament happened over mobile and digital media, with Durant interacting with Nike Club members throughout, answering questions, sharing insights on his training methods, and even introducing a virtual pair of KD 9s, his new shoes, into the game. More than 463,000 players answered the challenge, all competing in the virtual tournament for a chance to play Durant head-on. Gao Yang, the tournament’s winner, represented China in a live broadcast match up against Durant, where the two players squared off in a best of three formats. Durant narrowly defeated Yang in the two virtual matchups, then took Yang onto the courts of Guangzhou, where they played together as part of Durant’s Rise Academy.

Results (including context, evaluation, and market impact)

The opportunity to directly engage with an NBA superstar like Durant on their favorite platform drove unprecedented excitement among Chinese basketball fans. More than 463,000 fans entered the tournament, and 1.8 million tuned in live to watch the two-hour finale via Tencent NBA and  NBA2K Online. The showdown between Yang and Durant was the most popular program on Tencent NBA for two weeks, driving 33 million views in total. More than 306,000 virtual KD 9s were downloaded and paid for in the game, converting two-thirds of the tournament’s competitors. Most importantly, the KD 9 became the fastest-selling shoe for Nike in the market to date.

Categories: Lead Generation/DR/Conversion | Industries: Apparel, Footwear | Objectives: Lead Generation/DR/Conversion | Awards: Silver Winner