Nike gets held up a lot in marketing meetings, conference and articles.
Less for their advertising these days. Arguably it's not as profound, insightful or compelling as it once was. Though that view tends to come from middle aged advertising people with "glory days syndrom" not teen aged target markets who are rather engaged.
However, what is certain is that what they are saying is getting relatively less interesting over time to what they are doing. They are doing some increasingly really interesting things.
Nike+ has been out for five years, which feels really old. A standard feature in most running products.
The Fuel Band had a nice boom on release. Strong engagement amongst the keeners, still a question if it's big with the regular people yet, but that's just an observational conclusion.
No matter, two things are very interesting.
1. They are doing real social not formulaic "happy Friday" social. They are communicating and celebrating across the entire brand and all its touchpoints. Giving people something to talk about (the product) and then incorporating that naturally and honestly into comms. I loved their consumer facing Fuel Band dashboard even before they asked to feature me on the front page following a little jog with livestock in Spain. I also love the ongoing football academy reality like saga on their France football fanpage or any one of hundreds of other micro-narratives across all their owned media aroun the world.
2. Their front line sales staff are getting skilled up in new ways. In the Covent Garden running store the other week I noticed an employee with the role Digital Specialist on his name tag. Basically, given the technology products starting to come out they are installing retail floor experts to teach fellow staff and consumers on what the products are and how they work in regular language for regular people. Seems obvious but it is amazing how few retailers communicate well, in the frontlines, with real customers. While collecting high quality intelligence to feed back into product and comms development. Retail is seen too easily as purely as cost centre or topline revenue driver rather than brand experience lynchpin.
The second point is really interesting as Nike seems on the verge of becoming arguably the first retail goods company to incorporate technology deeply and meaningfully into all their products. The Nike+ Basketball product blows my mind, and it seems smart clothing after years of promises is coming out soon too.
The future is distributing itself a little better in sport these days, and hopefully there will be lots of Nike to talk about at conferences in the years to come.