What marketers can learn from 10 of the best Nike ads

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

nike adsNike is one of the Beloved Brands of all time, and “Just do it” has been one of the best tag lines in history. Consistently, over the last 20-30 years, they’ve used inspiration and challenge to deliver the “Just Do It” advertising idea. Nike does such a good job owning inspiration that when I see someone else copy this area, I think “wow that’s a good spot, but that’s so Nike”. And then when I see Nike try to get funny or cute, I think “That’s not Nike, it’s off strategy for the brand”.

When we measure advertising, we look at the ABC’S, attention, branding, communication, and stickiness. Nike’s “Just do it” has been sticking in the minds and hearts of consumers since the mid-80s.

Our model for how to predict Advertising success

Taking smart and different from the measurement of advertising success, most tests will measure the attention versus motivation of consumers. The creativity of Advertising (how you say it) has to break through the clutter, in order to connect with consumers, while linking brand closely to the story. It must gain attention while ensuring the brand is an integral part of that breakthrough. The brand’s main message (what you say) has to motivate consumers to think, feel or act differently, than before they saw the message. Advertising must communicate the main message in a way that sticks in the consumers’ minds.

Based on this type of predictive tool, the best Advertising must:

  • Gain the consumers’ Attention to break through (A)
  • Puts the spotlight on Brand so it is remembered (B)
  • Communicates brand’s main message through the story (C)
  • Sticks in the consumer’s mind, making the brand seem different (S)

Here are ten Nike ads to inspire you to be smarter at advertising:

If you let me Play Sports

This is for all the women who kick ass in sports, including my daughter. This ad is from back in the late ’90s, Nike was ahead of its time. A likely inspiration to 2015’s the Always brand of: “throw like a girl”. This ad is huge on communication, using emotion to stick with the consumers.

No Excuses

If this doesn’t get you off your ass and go to the gym, then nothing will. This is a highly challenging ad that talks about all the possible excuses, but with a surprise ending that takes away all those excuses. The aggressive tone helps gain the consumer’s attention, the ending helps communicate and stick.

Michael Jordan “Failure”

For the GOAT (greatest of all time) this shows a glimpse of the human side of Michael. The ad’s communication attempts to humanize all the mistakes Jordan made. This is clearly geared to gaining attention among the mass fan audience. MJ has done more for the Nike brand than anyone.

Charles Barkley “I am not a role model”

Maybe not quite inspiring but truthful. This is long before all the disgraced athletes–Lance, Tiger, Kobe–and keeps it real as to athlete vs. celebrity vs. role model. This was a highly controversial message and generated a ton of media attention, as sports talk shows debated this message for weeks.



This is a highly attention-grabbing ad. Nike created a hip-hop track, then matched up the bouncing basketballs to that track, giving the illusion of a very musical ad. I was in the kitchen the first time this came on the air, and based on the sound alone, I was drawn to the TV to see what was making this sound. Nike released a ‘making of’ documentary that aired on sports networks. I watched it. The attitude and entertainment value helps this ad to stick.


This is a low attention Nike ad, but high on communication. It’s targeted more to the serious runners, layering in the insights of how it feels to be a runner. It communicates how runners have to fight against the natural tendency to just stay in bed.

Colin Kaepernick

In September of 2018, Nike launched its most controversial ad, in support of Colin Kaepernick. From a PR perspective, one simple tweet by Colin Kaepernick touched off a huge Twitter storm. Regardless of the controversy, this is one of Nike’s best. The poetic copy is beautifully written and the related visuals are flawless in telling their story.

Find your greatness

For the 2012 London Olympics Nike continued its attempt to dominate the games without even sponsoring.  This spot goes as far as showing all the different London’s around the world.  The communication of “Find your greatness” speaks to what the Nike brand is all about. No matter who you are and what you want to accomplish, reach down and find your own greatness. A beautiful idea. There was a survey asking who the Olympic sponsors were, and twice as many people said Nike than said Adidas.

Unlimited Together

From the 2016 Olympics, a beautiful authentic view of the US Olympic basketball team, with Chance the Rapper providing an amazing track. This is a great attention-getting ad that communicates with the basketball fans. Very cool ad.


I want to end with what I think is my favorite Nike Ad. I know this one receives mixed reviews but I believe in all of us there is someone who is fighting against what we were burdened with. In this case, it’s the weight. But I love that he’s trying.


What is your favorite Nike Ad?


To learn more about this type of thinking, you should explore my new book, Beloved Brands.

With Beloved Brands, you will learn everything you need to know so you can build a brand that your consumers will love.

You will learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a brand plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution and analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.

Beloved Brands book

To order the e-book version or the paperback version from Amazon, click on this link: https://lnkd.in/eF-mYPe

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Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth, and profitability you will realize in the future.

We think the best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique playbook tools are the backbone of our workshops. We bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a brand idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources.

Our brand playbook methodology will challenge you to unlock future growth for your brand

  1. Our deep-dive assessment process will give you the knowledge of the issues facing your brand, so you can build a smart plan to unleash future growth.
  2. Find a winning brand positioning statement that motivates consumers to buy, and gives you a competitive advantage to drive future growth.
  3. Create a brand idea to capture the minds and hearts of consumers, while inspiring and focusing your team to deliver greatness on the brand’s behalf.
  4. Build a brand plan to help you make smart focused decisions, so you can organize, steer, and inspire your team towards higher growth.
  5. Advise on advertising, to find creative that drives branded breakthrough and use a motivating messaging to set up long-term brand growth.
  6. Our brand training program will make your brand leaders smarter, so you have added confidence in their performance to drive brand growth.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching

To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

You have my personal promise to help you solve your brand building challenges. I will give you new thinking, so you can unlock future growth for your brand.


Graham Robertson

Founder and CMO, Beloved Brands Inc.


Nike set to ambush the Olympics

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market


I am not the biggest fan of sponsoring the Olympics. When I was at Johnson and Johnson, we paid $100 Million to sponsor the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, just for the right to pay double the price of TV ads.  You get some good slots, but many bad slots as well. I get the idea of Super Bowl ads, with the hype and excitement and even now consumers look for the ads. But the Olympics has great viewer fatigue. We will all find ourselves watching Poland versus Brazil in Fencing at some point around day 9, with our eyes in a slight fog, before we ask ourselves “What am I doing?”. At J&J, I had Band Aid and Listerine. Trying to link those to the games or athletes always felt like a real stretch.  Good luck to P&G now. I kept thinking:  unless you are a sponsor closely connected to the sporting events, is it really worth the price? 

It should make sense for Adidas, right? What Nike did in 2008 was brilliant.  Instead of paying the huge fees to the Olympics and the insane extra cost of TV ads, they decided to ambush the Olympics. With soaring heat, they knew that consumers would seek shelter in air-conditioned malls, where Nike dominated with massive signage and murals. Adidas was nowhere to be found. Nike also sponsored Liu Xiang, one of China’s most popular Olympic athletes. Respondents said that they wanted to buy Nike because they associated Liu’s success with the type of athletic gear he uses and they want to be like him.  Sounds like the impact of Air Jordan’s in America. The ambush was so successful that in a survey of who the main sponsor for sports equipment, 50% named Adidas and 40% named Nike. On top of that, the Olympics created a rule change for Vancouver that no one but Olympic sponsors could have any ads within 150 miles of Vancouver.

This Nike TV ad, which never mentions the Olympics, sure walks that fine line of feeling like an Olympic sponsorship ad.

So fast forward to 2012 and Nike has a new plan to ambush the London Games via Twitter.  When the Team USA men’s basketball team is playing, Nike’s Jordan brand will include spontaneous real-time comments about the game in its promoted tweets. These Twitter ads will also contain pre-planned brand content and links. Twitter use is extremely popular during sporting events. Check out the feed during any big game and you will see a continuous string of comments about what has been happening, plus many comments from various fans offering their opinion about their team, their favorite players and plays that occurred during the game. Nike is hoping this trend continues during the upcoming Summer Olympics in London with the Nike brand front and centre. “When people who are simultaneously watching sports and tweeting, see a promoted tweet about the real-time game or score, then it’s not an ad anymore, but an information tool. To identify our target, we focus on what accounts people follow on Twitter, rather than what they post. That’s because a lot more people read content on Twitter than post content.”

It will be interesting to see whether Nike will have success with this program. Or is there just such advertising clutter and confusion over sponsors that Nike would be granted relative sponsorship status without doing anything. What’s your view?

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands

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Linsanity becomes an overnight Beloved Brand

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

Jeremy Lin has become an overnight sensation. Here’s a guy who didn’t get any scholarships, went undrafted and has been cut by two NBA teams already. His rookie NBA season, he averaged 2.6 points per game and barely got any playing time. Just two months ago, he was cut by Golden State, one of the worst teams in the league. He went to Harvard of all places and even in the Ivy League, he only averaged 12 points a game. This guy has literally come from out of nowhere. Even he knows that.  He was sleeping on his brother’s couch just a month ago. On top of all this, Jeremy Lin is the first American born Chinese player to a breakthrough in the NBA, which strengthens his fan base around the world. In just seventeen days, he’s gone from a nobody to an instant global sensation, who might one day command a brand value of over $100 Million.

As I’ve laid out the Brand Love Curve, people ask me “Can a brand go straight to LOVE IT?” My answer is “NO”, but some brands can go along the curve at warped-speed. A few examples: the first time I had a White Chocolate Magnum Bar in the 1990s, I made it all the way to the Love It stage on the second bite. When Kevin Spacey as “Keyser Söze” started limping away at the end of The Usual Suspects, I instantly knew it would be my one of my brands for life. Lin has gone to Beloved Status that fast.

Jeremy Lin’s first big game was only 17 nights ago and yet he’s all over the news.   Eighteen days ago, no one really knew him. In fact, his own Facebook status in early January was “Every time I try to get into Madison Square Garden, the security guards ask me if I’m a trainer LOL”. His story has grown in legendary fashion, winning 7 games in a row, hitting last-second shots, beating Kobe Bryant. All this is the basketball side.

As a brand, Jeremy Lin has gone along the Brand Love Curve at warp-speed, potentially even faster than Justin Bieber. But for Lin, it’s been the Perfect Storm of Events.

  1. He’s just an Average Joe: He went undrafted, cut by two teams, no job, sleeping on his brother’s couch. Great Story. It all adds up–he’s one of us. We love those stories, where the guy just shows up to try out and makes the team. Before the Lakers game, Kobe was laughing about the prospect of guarding him. After he scored 38 points, Kobe was marveling at his ability. They make movies with scripts like that.
  2. He’s another Tebow:  He thanks Jesus when he wins. He’s nice and humble. He’s also a highly flawed player who like Tebow, wins in the end. And like Tebow, he wins in dramatic fashion. We just rode the Tebow Story–and we’re clearly not done with it. Most of us want more Tebow. We want heroes and we want them to be good guys. https://beloved-brands.com/2012/01/15/527/ 
  3. New York is the Centre of the Universe: If this was Oklahoma or Portland, it might not be so crazy, but it’s New York, the home to the most powerful media and advertising in the world. He’s already made the cover of Time Magazine and now back-to-back covers on Sports Illustrated.  Ratings for Knick games are through the roof–the highest since Michael Jordan.  His #17 jersey is selling like crazy. Social Media has gone crazy behind Lin.  Did the New York Media help add fuel to the fire?  Likely.
  4. It’s a Global Story:  Lin, while born in America is the first American born Chinese player in the NBA.   His games are being watched Live in China. And he’s an instant national hero in a country of One Billion people.  And as we know, the economy in China is strong–giving them the real purchasing power to get behind Lin.

As with any Beloved Brand, the more loved the brand the more valuable that brand will be.    A month ago Lin was making the league minimum. Now, he could be worth somewhere between $15 Million and $150 Million, depending on how long this status can last for him. A few numbers that help tell the story.

  • Since Feb. 4th MSG’s stock price has increased 6%, adding $139 million to the company’s market value. During the same period, the S&P 500 has gone up less than 1%. With increased TV ratings, higher ticket prices and the #1 selling jersey, with continued success, the Knicks have to re-sign him. That means Lin’s next contract could see a salary of $10 Million per year.
  • Yoa Ming, the only other notable Chinese player in the NBA, made up $80 million in endorsement deals in China.  China has gotten behind Lin in a dramatic fashion.  With a soaring economy and One Billion consumers, that could be a huge payday for Lin.   Especially for American brands wanting to a breakthrough in China. With all this hype and Chinese pride, Lin could generate $80-100 Million in China.
  • There are already rumors going on that he has signed on with Nike, that he will be the new face of NBA’13 and his agent is quoted as saying that he has already turned down Millions. Even in America, Lin could easily turn this into another $25 Million in US Endorsements.  

If things go right, and assuming Lin continues to play reasonably well, add it all up and Jeremy Lin could easily turn his Beloved Brand Status into $100-150 Million per year.