Nike promoted its Air Max 720 shoes by providing Chinese young people with support for their creative pursuits.
Objective and Context:
Since its launch in 1987, Air Max has positioned itself as Nike's most creative shoe collection. Designed by Tinker Hatfield, Air Max was the first shoe in history to reveal the air within its sole, leading it to become a symbol of creativity and innovation in sportswear culture. The new Air Max launch (Air 720) stayed true to its heritage with an innovative design which revealed more air in the sole than ever before.
With this new design, Nike sought to make a creative statement and strengthen its connection with Chinese youth who were hungry for bold and innovative sneaker styles. Research revealed that youths' desire for fresh styles reflected their desire to "be more creative," yet only 14 percent of youths actually felt creative most of the time. Marketers were selling the promise of creativity along with their sneakers, but those same sneakers weren't bringing their creative dreams to life. Air Max hoped to change that. Its ultimate KPI was to elevate the creative output of its audience while creating enormous social buzz in the process.
Air Max's campaign targeted 17- to 25-year-olds in China who were independent, innovative, bold, and looking for fresh styles. To this crowd, sneakers are a means of self-expression, and each new style is a way for them to re-invent themselves and stay ahead of trends.
Despite their desire to be more creative by latching onto the latest sneaker styles, only 14 percent of youths felt they were creative. This lack of belief in their own creativity is a byproduct of the Chinese education system which does not focus on stimulating creative expression, leaving youths eager to create but unsure how to do so.
To solve its audience's need, Nike set out to make Air 720 a youth enablement platform, allowing Chinese youths to not only look incredible with the latest styles but also actively be more creative.
An emergent media trend in the market provided an opportunity to execute Nike's strategy. At the time of Air Max's launch, Chinese interest in vlogs (video blogs) was surging. While established social platforms have tried to introduce similar forms, VUE was the most popular and high-quality editing tool for young people making vlogs. As of February 19, 2019 the total number of VUE users was 97.5 million. Nike invited such users to unleash their creativity and "Go Bigger" in this medium in ways inspired by the "air" that made Air Max distinct.
Overall Campaign Execution:
To power youths' creativity, Nike created an integrated experience which would allow youths to both generate air-inspired creations on mobile and experience their creations offline in an event. A total of ¥19 million was spent to bring contributors' creative dreams to life, 42 percent of the budget being allocated to mobile and the remaining 58 percent being allocated to the offline event.
With the "Go Bigger" challenge, Nike provided youth with a mobile platform to be more creative, guiding their creativity with influencers and enhancing their output with exclusive vlog-editing tools.
Offline, Nike then created a "Go Bigger Space" in the heart of Beijing's bustling shopping district Sanlitun to showcase the Go Bigger challenge creations for six days, enabling youths to display their creativity. The Go Bigger space was designed to immerse viewers in the creative world of Air Max 720 and power further creativity through access to exclusive Air Max stickers in VUE. Audiences were able to engage with products, interact with "air experiments," and join the VUE challenge on site. A series of creative opinion leaders and Nike influencers visited the Go Bigger space during the six days to view the creations, giving creators the experience of having their work seen by their idols.
Online, the Go Bigger challenge lived on VUE and Weibo (a leading social media platform in China), where it invited youths to express their wildest creative dreams by playing with air and Nike's creative effects, stickers, filters, and music. The guidelines were simple: film something wild related to air on a mobile device, edit it in VUE with Nike's special air effect, and then upload it to VUE and Weibo tagged with #gobigger.
To help inspire and guide users, 16 VUE opinion leaders kicked off the challenge with their own takes on "Air" in street culture, fashion, art, and design. Their creations and all user-generated content were then grouped under the trending topic #gobigger on Weibo to inspire others to follow suit. As an additional incentive to encourage youths to be more creative, Nike would reward the 40 best video submissions with a pair of Air Max 720s.
Positioning Air Max as a creative empowerment platform proved to be a successful strategy for Nike, driving 666 million overall impressions and 48 million trending-topic views on social.
On mobile, the Air effects, filters, stickers, and music were used a total of 800,000 times (nine times more than Nike's previous UGC-themed campaign). A total of 25,000 pieces of user-generated content were entered for a chance to win exclusive products and access to Nike's creative event.
During the campaign, VUE's engagement rates revealed a huge surge in youth creativity, with a 57.1 percent increase in video creations on the platform and a large increase in downloads of the app.
A total of 8,154 consumers visited Sanlitun's Go Bigger Space in six days (150 percent more than expected). At the event, 26 percent of visitors interacted with the various Air experiments.