Since its founding in 1964, Nike has become the world’s largest manufacturer and supplier of athletic shoes and apparel. In 2017 alone the company generated $34 billion dollars in revenue, the largest portion of which was earned in North America.
Much of Nike’s success can be attributed to skillful marketing and sponsorship deals with the biggest names in professional sports. The brand has adeptly transformed its advertising strategy to meet the digital age and is more frequently turning to social media influencers for partnerships.
In the following case study, we’ll examine how the brand is collaborating with top YouTube influencers to promote its diverse product offerings.
Father-son dream team, Dan and Lincoln Markham of “What’s Inside?,” started YouTube in 2014 amassing nearly 6 million subscribers across two channels. They’re known for showcasing what’s inside everyday objects ranging from an iPhone to an entire car engine by cutting them in half.
In collaboration with Nike, the pair created seven sponsored videos documenting a trip to Nike’s headquarters — one of which they cut Nike’s newest shoe, the Air Vapormax, in half.
The success of the sponsored video series stems from the Markham’s ability to integrate Nike’s branded messaging into the respective themes of their two YouTube channels. The shoe-cutting video appears on their “What’s Inside?” channel and follows their typical format of presenting an item and cutting it in half. Additionally, the Nike trip appears on their secondary “WHAT’S INSIDE? FAMILY” channel dedicated to vlogs and Q&A’s.
What’s Inside? published the sponsored feature video and series leading up to the release of Nike’s 2017 Air Vapormax. For successful influencer marketing campaigns, brands need to be strategic about when influencers publish sponsored content. If done properly (in the case of Nike’s influencer marketing campaign with What’s Inside?), the influencer’s content can serve to fuel awareness and buzz for product launches.
In addition to well-timed influencer content, What’s Inside? gives audiences a coveted behind-the-scenes look at both Nike’s Air Vapormax, its headquarters, and chats with notable Nike personnel. This type of sponsored influencer content not only serves to drive awareness and reach, but also gives enthusiasts and potential new customers highly relevant and relatable content that’s easy to consume and less invasive than most other types of advertising.
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Harry Shaw is the influencer behind the wildly successful soccer YouTube channel WS2. Whether a trick shot challenge or FIFA gaming commentary, Shaw entertains an audience of 11.8 million with energy and humor.
Shaw created one video in partnership with Nike to showcase the brand’s CR7 Mercurial soccer cleats. In the video entitled “FOOTBALL CHALLENGE vs CRISTIANO RONALDO” Shaw plays soccer with his brother Josh and Ronaldo himself in the athlete’s backyard.
The virtually unrepeatable scenario of playing soccer with Ronaldo gave the video viral potential. Shaw’s large soccer-interested audience is also likely to enjoy the content and share it widely due to its similarity to his soccer trick shot videos. Unsurprisingly, the sponsored content has garnered over 18 million views to date.
In addition to showcasing a specific product offering, the video served to situate Nike favorably as a company that makes fun, inventive projects possible. It also demonstrates how brands can integrate brand ambassador or celebrity programs (in Nike’s case, its sponsored athlete program) with influencer marketing.
Professional dancer, YouTube influencer, and actress are just three of Megan Batoon’s many titles. The multi-hyphenate started on YouTube in 2010 and has grown an audience of nearly one million.
Batoon’s lifestyle channel comprises of vlogs, cooking tutorials, and comedic skits. She created one sponsored vlog in collaboration with Nike called, “Reacting to Running a Half Marathon | MEGANBYTES EP. 101,” documenting her first half marathon made possible by the brand.
Similar to the way Shaw framed Nike positively by featuring one of its athletes, Batoon attached the global giant to a personal face by including her Nike running coach Blue in the video.
Batoon introduces the Nike employee by saying, “I’m not a very good runner, so I got in contact with one of the Nike running coaches, his name is Blue, and he’s going to train me.” The statement both highlights her personal connection with the brand and emphasizes that just as she’s a beginning runner, her fans who might be new to running can seek help from the brand, too.