Nike’s Neon Shoe

The 2012 Summer Olympics posed a tricky question for sponsors: How could they promote their products without being an official Olympic sponsor? Since the official sponsorships cost in the multi-million dollar price range, it left many companies with few options for promoting their products during the athletic events. This could have been a tough issue for Nike, considering that although it was not an official sponsor,  nearly 3,000 of the Olympic athletes wear Nike products on and off field.

On top of the sponsorship restrictions, the IOC’s ‘Rule 40’ also prohibited the use of social media for promoting non-Olympic sponsors. Finally, in order to promote and protect the official sponsors of the London Olympics, the International Olympic Organization also prohibited athletes from appearing in advertising shortly before and during the Olympic Games.

How did Nike handle these restrictions? They used the marketing assets that belonged to them alone, their famous “swoosh” logo. The company started its planning long before the Olympic games opened. Using data gleaned form focus groups of athletes, Nike developed a unique new shoe color of a vivid neon green/yellow color and named it the Nike Volt. The color is very visible to the human eye, and Nike tested the color against the many different environments in which the shoe would be seen during the games – the red of the track surface, the blue and white of the fencing arena, and even the black of the boxing ring.

Nike calls the new hue a “signature color” (think “Tiffany blue”) and simultaneously rolled out the new color on shoes on the Olympic athletes as well as on their commercial Flyknit marathon shoe. The result gave Nike a visible platform to showcase performance of the athletes and its products.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1.  Poll students: How many watched the summer Olympics? How many of them noticed the Nike neon running shoes during the races?
  2. What other products can the students recall from the athletes wearing apparel? (Note: Beats by Dr. Dre used a similar ambush marketing strategy by giving away its headphones to hundreds of the Olympic athletes.)
  3. What was the business problem that Nike faced?
  4. What types of marketing research could the company use to solve the problem? (Note: Exploratory, descriptive, causal, etc.)
  5. How did the company maximize its Olympic exposure with the rest of its product marketing?
  6. Divide students into teams and have each team select an athletic product. Have each team develop an “ambush” marketing strategy that the company could use to promote products.

Source:  Ad Age Daily, 8/21/12,, other news sources

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