Top 10 Innovative Brands 2014: #6 Nike

The sportswear giant stays in the global spotlight with cutting-edge products and event marketing to match.

A three-day activation invited visitors to walk barefoot through a tactile labyrinth and create their own audiovisual experience.

Photo: Courtesy of Nike

It’s hard to deny Nike’s power in the world of sports brands. Number one on Forbes’s 2013 list of the World’s Most Valuable Sports Brands—its competitor Adidas is number three—the company also has solid financials: its 2013 revenue grew eight percent to $25.3 billion and recently reported its third-quarter financials include a 13 percent increase in annual revenue.

Product innovation is at the heart of the brand’s popularity. Nike was at the forefront of the wearable-technology trend when it released its Nike+ Fuelband in 2012, for example, and its Flyknit Racer employs cutting-edge technology to make the shoe improbably light. Like its products, the brand’s event programming is consistently innovative.

At Fashion Week in New York last September, Nike’s three-day “Nature Amplified” installation put a tactile labyrinth in the meatpacking district to celebrate the launch of the Nike Free Hyperfeel running shoe. Inside visitors, who walked through stone, sand, and grass in bare feet, were provided with neuro-headsets that let them produce their own audiovisual installation, which was informed in real time by the brain’s sensory reaction to the textures underfoot.   

For this year’s N.B.A. All-Star Game in New Orleans, Nike hosted a first-of-its-kind event called the Jordan Flight Lab. Aimed at letting consumers experience the feel of Jordan Brand shoes on a basketball court, the activation had samples of the sneakers for guests to try on. Participants were then paired with holographic versions of star basketball players depending on which pair of kicks they selected (those wearing the Carmello Anthony M10 shoes, for example, would learn moves from Anthony’s hologram). After completing their virtual crash course, guests were also made into holograms. The activation garnered more than 100 million impressions on social media.

The brand also leveraged the 2014 Super Bowl to showcase its history of innovation and athletic partnerships. In the days leading up the game, Nike’s Hall of Innovation took over Skylight at Moynihan Station in Manhattan. The activation housed a slew of high-energy events, including one that saw four local high school teams competing for the title of “Fastest Team in the Tristate.” Tasks included a 40-yard dash, a tug-of-war, a dance contest, and a social media contest.

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