Emotional Power and Nike’s Advertising

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Brand storytelling has been a staple of athletics company Nike for a long time now. In 1995, Nike crafted an ad campaign out of statistics linking participation in sports with a variety of positive outcomes for girls. Take a look.

The ad is just thirty seconds long, but it provides a powerful emotional message that has nothing to do with elite athletes. By reinterpreting sociological data in a way that reassures parents that putting their daughter in soccer will provide positive outcomes throughout her life; Nike recast themselves as human and understanding. The television campaign was supported by display ads in magazines that ran in publications such as Seventeen. What’s their secret?

It’s The Human Factor

The key to Nike’s success with this ad is the unvarnished humanity of their models. The girls are dressed in outfits that echo potential future as an athlete – sports bras, shorts, and bodies in perpetual movement. However, they aren’t photographed in a stadium but on playground, using swings and merry-go-rounds. The girls speak with childish inflections, even as they deliver statements on cancer and domestic violence.  Athletic activity is deeply inclusive in this ad; people would watch this ad and see their daughters, nieces and kids next door.

Nike has used this emotional impact in ads featuring major athletes. Look at this FIFA World Cup commercial from 2010, featuring six major soccer stars, plus Kobe Bryant and Roger Federer (plus Homer Simpson).

The revolving narrative skillfully intertwines music and images as the action shifts from game to game, outcome to outcome. (It’s also worth noting at three minutes in length, this ad was never designed for TV, but for Youtube, blogs and social media). Although the ad portrays wildly successful sportsmen, it invites the viewer in to share in the hopes and ambitions of the athletes featured. The moment of victory is never shown in the ad. Instead, we are restricted to seeing the best (and worst) possible outcomes.

Nike’s ability to tap into human emotion makes their ads memorable and compelling. How are you inviting the viewer (or reader) into your stories? How can they relate on an emotional level to your brand? How are you being memorable?