Nike’s Sports Ecosystem
Every Customer a VIP
Combining real-world and virtual services, Nike brings consumers into the “circle of runners,” providing expert training and encouragement, and delivering service with passion to take the loneliness out of running.
Every Customer a VIPBy Lucy Chao
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 620 )
“You like black-and-white styles. Right? Well, we’ve gone ahead and matched three outfits for you,” says the 23-year-old attendant at Neo 19, Nike’s flagship running store in Taipei, with a big grin.
One-on-one personalized service, three coordinated customized workout outfits, clothes hangers and a dressing room with one’s name on them, and a photo on instant film when one is done trying on the outfits all make one feel like a VIP. The entire Nike sales floor is one’s dressing room, and even if one ends up buying nothing, the staff remain just as friendly and pleasant.
This is the Nike Women personalized shopping experience. Just go online to make an appointment to enjoy personalized expert service at the nearest Nike consumer experience store. And naturally there is even more, like running tests, sports bra diagnostic testing, and running shoe rentals - all free of charge.
Last year, Forbes rated Nike the world’s most valuable apparel brand, with revenue of US$32.4 billion in 2016, for six-percent growth. And Nike tops the newly added Sporting Goods category in the 2017 CommonWealthMagazine’s Golden Service Awards survey.
What makes Nike resonate so well with consumers?
Connecting through Storytelling
Apple founder Steve Jobs once lauded Nike as one of the world’s best companies at marketing. It sells shoes, but the company’s value extends far beyond that of a shoe company.
Nike is often heard saying that, as long as you have a body, you are an athlete. This faith and ambition is emblematic of Nike’s quest to capture consumers.
Upon close observation, Nike’s marketing, advertising and events do not talk about new products, but rather “tell stories.” And the Nike story is told by having athletes, celebrities or regular citizens with a positive affinity with the brand relate how they were “transformed” into athletes.
Departing from the close guard celebrities typically keep on their image, performer Selina of the group S.H.E. tossed on a sports singlet and ran the 2015 Nike “We Run Taipei” Women’s Half Marathon, revealing the extensive burn scars on her body caused by an explosion several years ago. As she crossed the finish line on limp legs, her teeth gritted and face pale, no one could deny the gravity of the moment.
Wearing no makeup, sweaty, and grimacing, the female celebrity completed the challenge of running 21.1 kilometers. This is the inspiring story of her transformation into an athlete, telling everyone that ‘if Selina can do it, so can I.’
When this kind of story finds its way into consumers’ hearts, it produces an affinity for the brand. And when the public’s athletic consciousness is awoken, those wanting to get into the game naturally think of Nike.
Nike’s incubation of the Nike+ Running Club (NRC) ecosystem, comprising a diverse array of services, including a workout app, in-person running classes, NRC coaches and pacers, in-store services, and road races, is a tremendous accomplishment.
Not mere window dressing, these are living, breathing services that run around the clock, year-round. Most importantly, the services win people over on the strength of social media sharing, expert training, and enthusiasm.
Since the introduction of the Nike+ system in 2006, functionality has progressed from simple recording of running distance to applications including today’s NRC and Nike+ Training Club (NTC), attracting upwards of 28 million users worldwide. “Nike was the first to do it. They innovated by bringing individual runners together into social groups,” relates David Yu, chief branding and strategy officer at Dentsu Aegis Network.
Running is by nature a lonely enterprise, yet Nike has found ways to make it social. Runners in different locations, cities, and countries across the globe can check in through the NRC app and share such information about their run as distance and route, along with photos. Sharing facilitates the exchange of experiences among runners and helps them inspire one another.
“I use the app to check in with other runners I see less frequently in person, or coaches in other regions, and we ask each other if we’ve been out running,” says former Olympic marathoner Wu Wen-chien, NRC head coach in Taiwan.
Expert training information pooled online also flows offline. Users can choose from over 100 workout plans and multimedia tutorials to devise customized training programs in accordance with their time availability and needs. Apart from individual training, they can join free running and training activities, where they can benefit from the guidance and assistance of professional coaches.
Participants in each 60-minute expert workout or 120-minute group run can work to raise their level and even set a new PB (personal best), while sharing and exchanging experiences with other runners. “I’ve learned proper running knowledge and improved my core training,” relates Chen Wei-hsiu, a participant in Nike’s Speed Run events with six years of running experience.
A women’s running boom has exploded in recent years in Taiwan, and it goes without saying that Nike has been one of the prime movers behind the trend in Taiwan. Chen, who has run the Nike Women’s Half Marathon two years in a row, says that “the events they run and services they introduce seem tailor-made for women,” giving her a sense of exclusivity and belonging.
In the NRC ecosystem, people are the key to retaining participants.
Capturing Consumers with Passion
From head coach Wu Wen-chien down through the ranks of the coaching staff, pacers, and even the sales staff Nike calls “store athletes,” they all have one thing in common: passion.
Their passion enhances participants’ affinity for sports while seeing to their various needs, offering moral support on top of the expert training.
Wang Meng-chun, 33, once suffered from depression. She started running three years ago, participating in the NRC and running in the Nike Women’s Half Marathon two years in a row.
“I haven’t taken medicine or gone back to the doctor since I started running,” says Wang with a smile. Running has helped elevate her self-confidence and burnish her mental strength. “They constantly encourage you, and won’t easily let you quit,” she adds.
“The NRC makes running really heartwarming,” describes Wu. Running is emblematic of one’s attitude toward life, as “we ultimately face not our opponents but ourselves,” he says.
Nike brings athletes together through technology, and makes sports friendlier with passion. From the intangible to the tangible, to seeing to physical and mental aspects, consumers are always right at the center of it all. And while these “extra” services cannot bring immediate monetary gains, they quietly bring change to legions of people, while accumulating energy to power the company’s growth into the future.
Translated from the Chinese by David Toman