Last weekend, I ran my first Nike Women’s Series race in Toronto. And while the core of what I was doing was running a 15k, I also spent a lot of time being extraordinarily impressed by the brand experience and fandom. Nike is not just in the business of selling shoes and apparel anymore (although, let’s be real, they are), they have also built a brand as your one-stop-shop for fitness expertise. Nike is helping you get healthy, push yourself and reach your fitness goals.
Now, I know—this is not a new story. Nike is a strong brand. This cult-like following isn’t new…but it is getting stronger, and it’s easy to see why. Below are some of my key takeaways from the brand experience that you can apply to enhance your brand experience for customers. Even if you don’t have a Nike-sized budget.
- Give the people what they want. Free fitness classes all weekend? Check. A chance to meet and be coached by elite trainers? Check. A free Tiffany necklace to every race finisher instead of a metal? Check. (Seriously.) Sometimes people need a little motivation to participate. About half the people I met were running for the Tiffany necklace (a very smart partnership) and had already collected a few at previous races. The trainers are like celebrities to the Nike following. Everyone wants to meet them. Bringing them to the event site is a good way to give the people what they want.
- Show you have heart—it’s not all about you. Another smart partnership for the race? The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. This ties back to giving the people what they want as well. People want to feel like they’re making a difference for other people. And LLS is not a random charity partner. They are a good choice because the organization already has a fitness component through its Team In Training program. Throughout the race, LLS was present—at the race village, in announcements about fundraising results and on the race course with Team In Training supporters and participants.
- Make the experience shareable for friends and family. The entire experience was social sharing-friendly. At the race village and before and after the race, there were massive motivational phrases for photo opportunities—and the lines for these photo opps were long. The race itself was a unique and visual experience—running on a airport runway as planes took off, and by a lighthouse and beautiful city views. And if that wasn’t enough, people at home were able to track each participant online throughout the run. Every moment was a shareable opportunity on site and off site, extending the brand experience beyond the 10,000 race participants.
- Empower participants. Make it the best brand experience it can be. Before the race, Nike provides training schedules and coaching through their mobile apps, so the brand and trainers are with you throughout training. The day before the run, they set up an area for any race essentials you forgot at home or didn’t know you needed to enhance your experience. The elite trainers make another appearance at the starting line to kick off the race with high energy. Through a partnership with Spotify, they provided a playlist for the run to keep you inspired throughout. And all along the course were inspirational quotes to keep you motivated. The purpose of all of this? To make participants feel empowered and set them up for the most positive experience possible.
- Incorporate product. The main focus of the event was not the Nike apparel, but the apparel was there and available. It wasn’t just set up on site as usual, but included apparel exclusive to the Toronto event, which gave people the opportunity to purchase something special and unique. Experts were also on site to do run assessments and talk about the best shoes (Nike) for your running style. After the full brand experience of the weekend, people were lining up for exclusive apparel. It was a mad house. Lesson here? The experience doesn’t need to be all about the product in order to move product at the end of the day. Give people the experience first, but make the product available.
- Bring it home. It’s pretty typical to get your race times, photos and some follow up after a run. Nike takes it a step further by inviting you to participate in the next event while the experience from the last event is still fresh. It’s a continuation of the relationship and experience. Like ending a date by setting up the next date on the spot. No one likes to be left wondering what happened to this relationship. Close the loop and set up your next touch point.
Have you had a recent brand experience that impressed you, and what were your takeaways?