The Nike brand has become so strong as to place it in the rarified air of recession-proof consumer branded giants, in the company of CocaCola, Gillette and Proctor & Gamble. Brand management is one of Nike’s many strengths. Consumers are willing to pay more for brands that they judge to be superior in quality, style and reliability. A strong brand allows its owner to expand market share, command higher prices and generate more revenue than its competitors. With its “Just Do It” campaign and strong product, Nike was able to increase its share of the domestic sport-shoe business from 18 percent to 43 percent, from $877 million in worldwide sales to $9.2 billion in the ten years between 1988 and 1998. Nike spent $300 million on overseas advertising alone; most of it centered around the “Just Do It” campaign. The success of the campaign is that much more remarkable when one considers that an estimated 80 percent of the sneakers sold in the U.S. are never used for the activities for which they have been designed.
Nike’s marketing tactics in the ‘80s, and in particular its campaign against Reebok, gambled on the idea that the public would accept sneakers as fashion statements. Nike later cashed in on the jogging/fitness craze of the mid 1980s, during which its “Just Do It” campaign expanded to attract the female and teenage consumer, in addition to the stalwart 18 – 40-year-old male consumer. (Nike was losing ground to Reebok during this time, thanks to the explosion ofRES3:990108 2 aerobics.) Phil Knight, the founder and CEO of Nike, suffused his company and ads with the idea of the intense, inwardly focused competitor. The ads rarely focused on the product itself, but on the person wearing the product. Heroes and hero worship abound on the Nike campus in Beaverton, Oregon.
The “Just Do It” campaign seemed to capture the corporate philosophy of grit, determination and passion, but also infused it with something hitherto unknown in Nike ads—humor. Nike had always been known for its “detached, determined, unsentimental” attitude. “In a word, [Nike is] cool.”
The new ads retained that attitude, but several of the original 12 “Just Do It” ads incorporate jokes, explicit and implicit, to make their point. The Bo Jackson ad stands out. Jackson is seen working out at several different activities, joking while on a bike machine, “Now when is that Tour de France thing?” and after slam dunking a basketball contemplates “Air Bo.” “I like the sound of that,” he says.
The “Just Do It” campaign received mixed ratings, ranging from “an instant classic” to “sociopathic.” One critic went so far as to say the ads were “an impatient bordering-on-contemptuous exhortation to the masses. Cool is one thing. Poverty of warmth is another.” Eventually the campaign was credited with embracing not just resolve and purpose, but also the “beauty, drama and moral uplift of sport—even, every now and then, fun.”
Through its “Just Do It” campaign, Nike was able to tap into the fitness craze of the 1980s. Reebok was sweeping the aerobics race and gaining huge market share in the sneaker business. Nike responded to that by releasing a tough, take-no prisoners ad campaign that practically shamed people into exercising, and more importantly, to exercising in Nikes.
The “Just Do It” campaign was also effective in reassuring consumers that the brand they picked, Nike, was a quality brand. This was most effectively portrayed by celebrity sports figures such as Bo Jackson, John McEnroe and later, Michael Jordon. If Michael Jordan can play an entire NBA season in a pair of Nikes, certainly the average