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Thought Leadership

Nike Has The Gold Medal In Anthemic Storytelling, A Case Study

Unconquered uses anthemic storytelling to dig into a brand's ethos.

Using innovation to expand human potential has always been a huge part of Nike’s mission, ever since it was founded in 1964. While their passion for developing high-performance athletic shoes was always at their core, it wasn’t until the mid-eighties, that after a downward spiral in sales they switched their marketing strategy from focusing on the shoes to the athletes wearing them. This switch to anthemic storytelling has since inspired generations of athletes and in turn led them to owning a 25% share of the sneaker market.

Today, their motivational anthems are almost as legendary as their shoes. Founder Phil Knight talks about how he originally believed it was enough to design the ultimate athletic shoe, and how it took time for him to see that sales weren’t built in the lab in this 1992 Harvard Business Review interview. After some deeper digging into their consumer data, the company realized that 60% of their core consumers were everyday athletes, not the elite athletes their marketing strategy had focused on. So they revised their strategy with the same innovation they used in the lab and instead of going after customer’s feet, they headed straight for their heart.

Nike Connects Their Mission With Their Storytelling

Anthemic storytelling telling is all about brand building.

Find Your Greatness is a great representation of Nike’s change in strategy and the company’s incredible grasp on anthemic storytelling. The visuals are simple – just a boy slowly and surely making his way, jogging on a back road against a voice over that reminds viewers greatness isn’t reserved for a select few, but for all of us, as long as we’re willing to work for it. This spot perfectly portrays the company’s mission to bring innovation and inspiration to every athlete in the world.

Another great example is Play New. In this ad, Nike encourages their audience to keep working at their game no matter how much of a beginner skill set they have, because there is greatness in trying something new. The stars of the spot are the novice athletes struggling to find their groove, with the Nike gear making subtle appearances throughout. Because the focus is on big picture thinking and not the product itself, this evergreen piece will maintain its relevance as long as humans continue to try new things.

If your brand is looking to develop storytelling that better connects to your audience and reflects your mission, contact Unconquered for a consultation.

Nike Uses Messaging That Resonates With Their Entire Audience

While Nike’s marketing strategy shifted to speak to the everyday athlete, they haven’t forgotten their roots. They still showcase professional athletes throughout their advertising, but the difference now is that they do so in a way that inspires. Never Too Far Down tells us that even our sports heroes get underestimated and counted out and yet continue to fight and work towards the impossible. In another spot narrated by ScHoolboy Q, Nike celebrates Tiger Woods’ seemingly impossible yet triumphant return to golf after a devastating accident that shattered his leg. This masterful approach to anthemic storytelling helps connect the brand’s entire audience in their desire to overcome the odds, whether they’re Lebron James, Tiger Woods, or the athlete next door.

How Nike Works In Their Values And Principles

Nike uses anthemic storytelling in its campaigns not just to inspire on the field but to take a stand for equality. In this spot, Nike takes a stand with Colin Kaepernick as he encourages viewers to believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything. In a second ad Dream Crazier, Nike reminds female athletes that no matter how far they have to go, that they’ve already come so far. The spot’s narrator points out that it was once crazy for a woman to run a marathon, become a professional boxer, or even dunk a basketball, so no matter how crazy your dreams might be, you should dream crazier.

Nike’s incredible arsenal of anthemic gold works across multiple mediums from digital, print, social, to television and more. The Dream Crazier campaign is a great example. Its print ads beautifully illustrate female athletes achieving incredible feats against inspirational lines such as “Be the hero you never had” and “If you spin hard enough, you turn history on its head”. While overall, the athlete stories Nike features might differ in varying abilities and goals, their intention is similar in nature. Each inspirational story stays true to their mission and principles, while better connecting their audience to the brand. For that reason, these stories will remain as evergreen as the desire to play sports itself.

If your brand is looking for storytelling that better connects to your audience and reflects your mission, contact Unconquered for a consultation.