Friday, April 30, 2010

welcome to optimism: Nike GRID - Close Up

Nice essay in this week's Campaign about Nike GRID - compiled by one of the planners involved, W+K's Graeme Douglas

Campaign 30 April Nike Grid

Here's the piece in full:

Nike is a brand built on running. Trace the company’s lineage back and you eventually arrive about forty years ago, with running pioneer and legendary Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman’s quest to build lighter, more technologically advanced running shoes to better serve the elite athletes with which he worked.

That quest for innovation is also something that’s inherent in Nike’s DNA and drives not only product development but also how the brand engages with consumers, so the creation of Nike GRID – an engagement idea built around fluid, unrestricted running – seemed a fitting concept.


Nike set us the task of engaging young people with Nike Running around the weekend of the London Marathon. The insight driving this was that there are groups of young people running, but who were not yet adopting the title ‘runner’.

Whilst it was vital that whatever we did was consistent with and conveyed Nike’s POV on running, it was evident from the start that a message-based campaign wasn’t going to be enough. We needed to get people out and active; and introduce to them a new way to run. The main goal was to make it accessible, both in its location and the format of the event. We decided the best strategic option to deliver this would be to augment the running experience; creating a layer of experience on top of the run that aimed to alter how the activity would be interacted with.


We set six core objectives for the concept to deliver against:

- A playful, game-like experience

- Make it flexible and fun

- Technology as an enabler, not a barrier

- Consistent with the Nike running POV

- Uniquely London

- A platform that can be built on in the future

The basic premise of GRID turns London into a game board, challenging runners to ‘claim their streets’ by amassing points for runs completed in their, and other, postcodes. Points, badges and prizes are awarded for speed, attrition, routes and various other ‘unlockables’ that became apparent as the game unfolds. Players could play at any time of the day or night, in any postcode, as casually or as seriously as they wanted. Players connected their GRID profiles with their own social networking platforms, and a central Facebook group allowed GRID to engage in a live dialogue with players as events unfolded.

Advertising also played a role: digital out-of-home in each postcode celebrated the leaders in real-time throughout the day. This had a dual purpose: not only did it motivate the participants; it also amplified the game to a larger, non-participating audience, turning the idea into a wider Nike Running brand campaign.

The GRID itself – or how we pinpointed player location – was the biggest question that we faced. Partnering with one of the major mobile location services du jour was an obvious option, but instead, we focussed one of the massive pieces of pre-digital infrastructure still lying around London: BT phone boxes.

This re-appropriation of an iconic system achieved a few things. Firstly, it completely removed technological barriers to entry. Secondly, it delivered a surprising, subversive and urban tone to the game. Thirdly, it grounded the game firmly in the real world, and provided a unique ‘sense of place’ that simply wouldn’t be achievable solely through mobile platforms.


GRID is part of a growing category of ideas that sits within, as Tom Coates of Yahoo! describes, the ‘real world web’; connected things that blur the physical and virtual spaces - things that thrive primarily because they excite us as humans, rather than being a vehicle for demonstrating technical capability. Fun and competition ruled over technology and tradition, which led to almost 3,000 individual, runs being logged on the day. Further performance data is not yet available, but given some of the initial feedback via the group, the experience was a rewarding and enjoyable one for those involved.

Nike GRID was a collaboration between W+K London, AKQA, Mindshare and Nike. Planning, creative, media and production responsibilities were shared between all agencies. welcome to optimism

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