Founded in 1964 with a budget of a mere $1,200, Nike has since grown to become the world’s largest manufacturer of athletic shoes and apparel. In 2018 alone, the company generated $36.4 billion in revenue.
Rising to the top of the industry was a result of not only quality and innovation but also skillful advertising strategies and marketing tactics. Apart from a number of sponsorship deals with some of the biggest names in professional sports, the brand has embraced the digital era, turning to social media to promote its products. In this case study, we will look into Nike’s Air VaporMax series campaign as an example of a successful collaboration with an influencer.
“What’s Inside” Nike Air VaporMax?
This running shoe series debuted in March 2017. Since then, there has been a multitude of color and style releases, which have made the model one of Nike’s most sought-after. To promote the product, the brand decided to highlight its innovative technology featuring a brand-new Air Max sole and a Flyknit upper. For this purpose, Nike teamed up with popular YouTube channel “What’s Inside?” in what became one of the most successful influencer marketing campaigns.
“What’s inside?” is run by Dan Markham and his 13-year-old son Lincoln. The duo from Kaysville, Utah makes videos exploring various everyday objects (ranging from a golf ball to an entire car engine) by cutting them open and exposing what they are made of. Starting in 2014 with a second-grade school project that revolved around a sports ball, the venture has now grown into a YouTube channel with 6.6 million subscribers.
Dan and Lincoln have used their fame to land several sponsorship contracts and collaborations with other top influencers. They now travel the world, tasting new food, conducting science experiments, and sharing their behind-the-scenes experience on a separate channel, “What’s Inside? Family,” which counts 1.2 million subscribers.
In 2017, the father-son duo created a total of seven Nike-sponsored videos for both of their channels. They used their original “What’s Inside?” channel to show viewers that the brand’s Air VaporMax is made of a full Air Unit which has more air than any previous Air Max creation. Taking five years to create, the new model also gets rid of the foam midsole and features 3M Reflective detailing on the heel. The improvements were demonstrated by comparing the Air VaporMax to the first Air Max 1, both models cut in half to make their structure and content visible.
In addition, Dan and Lincoln created several vlogs and Q&As, assembling Nike’s messaging and posting the content on their “What’s Inside? Family” channel. The YouTubers also visited the company’s headquarters and went on a sponsored trip to Paris to gain inspiration for Lincoln’s custom Nike shoe design, which served as the basis of a separate video where the boy unboxed the special pair.
What’s behind the campaign’s success?
The original “What’s inside Nike Air VaporMax?” video generated more than 6.2 million views, 48,000 likes, and 8,000 comments. The complementary videos added to the buzz, amassing millions of views themselves.
While Nike has not revealed any numbers or statements regarding the results of the campaign, the company closed its fiscal 2017 year with a 6% increase in revenue. The VaporMAx model has been updated every year since its release and is one of the brand’s best-sellers.
The partnership with the Markhams sparked the curiosity of potential customers by supplying information about Nike’s new line of products not just ahead of the official release but in a way it couldn’t be obtained unless sacrificing a pair of the shoes and cutting them in half. The father and son’s videos have driven awareness and reach in a less invasive way than most other types of advertising. Presented in a family manner, their content was also relatable and easy to consume, so this influencer marketing collaboration was definitely a win for Nike.
Nike’s “Just Do It” influencer marketing approach
The Air VaporMax campaign is not the only example of Nike tapping into the advertising potential of social media. In 2017, the company joined forces with Harry Shaw, the influencer behind the popular YouTube channel WS2, and Cristiano Ronaldo. The video, in which Shaw plays soccer with his brother Josh and Ronaldo in the athlete’s backyard, showcased the CR7 Mercurial soccer cleats. The sponsored content has generated over 45.2 million views to date and is a good example of how to integrate a brand ambassador or celebrity programs with influencer marketing.
Notably, Nike is working not only with big names in professional sports and influencers with huge followings. The brand is also successfully developing a micro-influencer marketing strategy, collaborating with Instagram brand ambassadors with as few as 10,000 followers.
These partnerships help the micro-influencers level up their accounts through the engagement with a large organization. Meanwhile, Nike reaches niche audiences in an authentic way and secures another channel for promotion, which is effective on a more local level.