Nike's ambush marketing rests on design

21 August 2012

NEW YORK: Nike, the sportswear giant, believes strong design, vivid branding and an increasingly co-ordinated strategy were all vital to the success of its "ambush marketing" efforts at the Olympic Games.

Speaking to AdAge, Martin Lotti, the firm's global creative director for the Olympics, argued it had been able to establish a unofficial "Team Nike" at the Games despite not being an official sponsor.

One method of achieving this goal was ensuring the 400 athletes linked with Nike wore its Flyknit trainers of a luminous yellow-green colour. This shade is known as "Volt", and likened in importance to the blue tint typically used by Tiffany, the luxury retailer.

In previous Olympics, athletes were given trainers to match the strip of their country, and Lotti suggested that the new approach adopted by Nike was "the easiest way" to make an impression.

"The Volt is our signature color for Nike ... It's our 'Tiffany Blue'. Of course, it's no accident that we picked that color. The whole point of this was to create impact," said Lotti. "It's the most-visible colour to the human eye."

Another core difference of the Games in London was that all Nike products on show were on sale in stores, helping drive the maximum benefit from its "Find Your Greatness" campaign.

While the Olympics were running in London, Lotti would be present throughout the day's events and beyond, soliciting feedback from competitors concerning Nike's products.

"People think we use the athletes as a marketing vehicle, but we don't. We start with the athletes in mind," said Lotti. "They are instrumental from the front end, from the way it fits and feels to color."

As an example, when Nike was developing the TurboSpeed tracksuits worn by athletes, it found they were 0.023 seconds quicker over 100m, and made athletes "feel faster".

Lotti has worked at Nike for more than a decade, and assumed responsibility for the Olympics two years ago. The firm is already planning for the next Winter Olympics in Russia and summer equivalent in Brazil.

"The endeavour of the Olympics starts as soon as the last game ends," he said. "At the end of Beijing we started discussions about what we were going to do for London, and now we're knee-deep in Sochi and starting to think about Rio, as well."

At present, adidas has not extended its official sponsorship of the Olympics beyond 2016. Lotti suggested that Nike could gain some benefits from such an affiliation, but may lose a certain vibrancy.

"It would definitely make life easier, but this makes it more interesting," he argued.

Data sourced from AdAge; additional content by Warc staff