(continued from previous page)
It's tough for Nike to outdo itself in marketing, but it may have come close with its 2002 multimedia campaign for the World Cup.
The sporting-goods giant hired film director and "Monty Python" alumnus Terry Gilliam to create an elaborate commercial called "The Secret Tournament." Then, in partnership with WildTangent, it also built an online game at Nikefootball.com to coincide with the ad, and teased the whole campaign with billboard and Web promotions.
"With a lot of companies, Web advertising is an afterthought. Nike spends as much time thinking about their online campaigns as their offline ads," said Alex Pineda, creative director of design firm The Retina. This is how Nike has become a case study for major advertising in the digital era, regularly pioneering new forms of consumer interactivity and blurring the lines between information, entertainment and advertising.
Many large advertisers have viewed technology with disdain, in some cases seeking legal safeguards
against ad-skipping features in digital video recorders and other services. But Nike has taken the opposite approach, immersing itself in the digital realm to heighten consumer interaction with its product campaigns and to extend its image, becoming a quasi-direct marketer of its brand through various online channels.
The Oregon-based conglomerate has invested heavily in Web site sponsorship, games, new technology and alternative TV commercials. And the company says it is paying off: For the last two years, it has been among the top three online advertisers in the consumer goods arena, according to research firm Nielsen/NetRatings.
Nike's involvement with technology has gone well beyond innovations in online ads. During the dot-com boom, it even partnered with Sonicblue and then with Royal Philips Electronics to introduce its own MP3 player for sports buffs.
The company has also hired cutting-edge designers to build immersive Web sites, videos or games for its sports-centric audience. A few years ago, it hired experimental designer Yugo Nakamura and others to create an interactive-art installation for Nike's new Yoga shoe. The project included an online film, "The Art of Speed," with a simultaneous TV ad campaign for Nikelab.com.
Michael Gough, former chief creative of brands at Nike and now chief creative officer at Macromedia, said the sporting company owes its success to a unique philosophy toward marketing and consumers that transcends individual media. "They don't really care about digital technology. They care about the experience it brings."