Nike, I thought you knew me

Historically, I’ve been a fan of Nike. Since taking up running, I’ve practically lived in their mesh shorts (at least for warm runs). I sport a neon Nike gym bag when I go to spin class or to zumba. Their sneakers make for great cross-trainers, and the new Nike+ SportWatch is on my wish list for my birthday.

But when I came across this recent ad to the left, I had to question my relationship with the brand. Run away from it all? Nike, I thought you knew me.

I picked up running as a positive habit. When I think about running, I think about running TO things, not FROM them. I run to improve myself as a person, and an athlete. I run as a way to support my favorite charities, to find time to think, to enjoy the outdoors, to experience the runner’s high, to challenge myself.  I run towards my goals, and towards the future. This ad—and its premise of using running as an escape—just does NOT connect with me.

In today’s world, the consumer has a lot of choices. If a brand isn’t making the right emotional connections, it leaves room for a competitor to swoop in and steal their loyalty.  That’s what makes my job so important.

Consumers want to connect with their favorite brands, and they’re not shy about offering up their advice on how to do it—especially when they know that someone is listening. Communispace gets that, and no one does a better job at helping clients to deeply understand and connect with their consumers.

So what do you say, Nike—want to check-in with a few hundred runners and learn what “running right” really means?

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7 thoughts on “Nike, I thought you knew me

  1. I think that this ad resonates well, actually. Not a runner, but spend a ton of time working out (collegiate swimmer, so swimming, weights, dry land stuff…), and I find whenever I’m feeling stressed out, I know I can get a work out in, and use that hour (or however long) to get away from any problems. Don’t have to worry about a paper I might need to finish for class, if I’m fighting with my girlfriend, or any of the other dozens of things that build up over the course of the day. And after I’m done, I’m refreshed enough to tackle those other things.

    For thousands (millions maybe) of people around the world, running gives them an opportunity to escape from the little things that get to them, and for whatever amount of time they can spend, get that little bit of relief they relish so much. Maybe that’s not THE reason why they run, but it’s certainly A reason</eM – and in this ad, Nike connects with those people perfectly.

  2. Hi Lou –

    I’m glad you posted! I had actually sent this ad around to a few of my running friends to hear their reactions before I wrote about it. What I was most impressed about? Everyone had a reaction – a polar reaction.

    This ad is interesting because I feel like you either REALLY click with it, or it REALLY rubs you the wrong way. To me, the idea of “Running Away from it All” does not seem like “Running Right.” But it sounds like to you, and to some other runners… it is. I think that’s totally normal, and it speaks to the different breeds of runners out there.

    In a sense, I do see this as a good ad; it sure got people talking. Capturing attention and staying top-of-mind is what advertising is all about, right? What I’m sort of perplexed by, though, is why Nike would want to position itself in the camp of one type of runner (escapist) VS another (accomplisher). Falling in the latter camp, I feel sort of alienated and turned off of Nike as my ally in sweat.

    I’d recommend that Nike think about their broad consumer base before posting something as polarizing as this. Because running does have so much emotion attatched to it, I’m definitely left with a bad taste in my mouth. And the next time I personally am shopping for gear for a marathon (or whatever crazy event I sign-up for) I may stay away from something that reminds me of what’s negative in the sport.

  3. Hi Catie –

    Go ahead and call me an escapist – I wouldn’t’ have it any other way. Whether I’m running FROM an argument, expenses, a report that won’t write itself, a mood that I don’t want to be in or just another endless Boston winter, I run away and I feel BETTER. That being said, my running mindset is anything but a negative in my life. I argue that resonating with this ad and a desire to escape means I love running, running makes me happy and running takes me away from things that are worse.

    This message reminds us that we don’t always have to feel the pressure to do more and be better. Running provides balance, clarity of mind and an off-switch from all of the other ways we are measured and judged in a single day. While running can be about goals related to speed and distance, most people will never run a 5 minute mile or a 50 mile race. To say that these people fall short because they’re not reaching their best is to discount all the good that running can do for them. I think most people (runners and non-runners included) need time away more than they need something else to strive towards. Running right seems to be about letting go and giving running the opportunity to help in whatever way makes sense for you.

    So aside from the fact that this ad is my desktop background and that I feel that much better because “Nike gets me”, you bring up a bigger question for brands. In the marketing world, when is it ok to be bold and take a risk (and most likely upset some) and when is it smarter to be neutral and safe (Switzerland if you will)? Regardless of how much I agree or disagree with this ad, Nike has given me great shirts, shorts and sneakers for running my cares away – an ad like this doesn’t make me question a brand that has already proven its commitment to developing quality training gear. In fact, I applaud it for reminding us that running isn’t just for the athletes – it’s something we can all benefit from.

    However, if you asked me to tell you which company ran the last ad that focused on a track race and brightly colored running shoes, I would tell you that your guess is as good as mine. In our communities we expose consumers to concepts and ideas that range from brilliant to safe to terrible, all the while knowing that the brand’s reputation is on the line. Had we been able to test this ad perhaps we would have heard the “Escapists” and the “Accomplishers” in equal proportions. Perhaps Nike would have run a split ad showing the benefits of running to and from are all the same. Or perhaps Nike would have still taken the risk and gone one way or the other depending on the amount of passion it ignited in a few. Next time Nike – we’d be happy to help you out.

  4. Wouldn’t it also depend on where this ad ran? If you saw it at a T stop it might make less sense than perhaps in Runners World or in a Running specific venue. I’d tend to side with Lou that a number of runners (myself included) use their running as an escape from the grind and so this would reach them. As much as I admire your positivity about running, I think you might be in the minority. So where did you see the ad? Specific targeting with this ad – finding people who might not be runners but who are looking for an escape – could be effective. Just sayin’.

  5. I do not like the argument that running can be an escape from negative situations. There have been studies shown that positive mantras (and a positive mindset) is beneficial to running AND to your ability to solve problems. This advertisement argues that running should be an escape, assuming that your life is surrounded by negativity. Personally, the most negative line I find in this ad is “run from relationships,” which frankly, is the worst advice I’ve ever heard or seen in my life.
    What I love about the running community is it’s overwhelming positive atmosphere. I host a blog that centers mostly around running and have made more than a few friends through this outlet. Running IS a relationship. With yourself, with other runners, sometimes with a team. The point of running shouldn’t solely be about ESCAPE. If it is, then the advertisement is potentially targeting people who allow anxiety and stress to run their lives. (Definitely a generalization, but think about it — why would someone react positively to a negative poster like this?)

    This is what I enjoy about running: the sense of accomplishment. I enjoy the excitement at reaching a goal. I like the feeling of the sun on my shoulders. I like waving to passersby. I use my running time to reflect on the day, to problem solve, to jam out to good music, to celebrate being alive. If running were about trying to block out life’s problems, I’d probably grow to dread running. Where’s the joy in escape when you’re being told that the life you return to is bad?

    No thank you. I don’t think you “run right” when you are running away.

  6. It looks like I’m in the minority with you, Catie. I should preface this with the fact that I wouldn’t classify myself as a “runner” (although I try on occasion). But I do want to be inspired to run and reminded about what I do enjoy about running – so that maybe I can do it more often in the future. This ad rubs me the wrong way not because it positions running as an escape, but because it associates running with “running away” – two terms which in my head bring about very different emotions. I associate “running away” with being fearful, overwhelmed, or unable to deal with surroundings – I don’t want to think that I can’t handle whatever comes my way. But “escaping” is a vacation, a time for relaxation, a moment of serenity, a pause button. I like exercise as an escape, but I’m not “running away” – I’m taking time for me. I exercise for my sanity, for my health, for my me time…I’d much rather see this ad positioned in a way that reminds me of the emotional utopia running provides without the negative connotations I have from the idea of running away. What this ad seems to be missing for me is the focus on, well, “me” – the idea that I run for me because I matter more than any of those things that may be surrounding me.

  7. Ok, I’ve just seen the ad on Pinterest and I have to say that I get it. My primary reason for running is to stay healthy & fit. Sometimes I run because I need a break, sometimes I run to have a laugh with my friends, and sometimes I just run. The poster doesn’t say escapist or accomplisher to me–it just says here are some ideas.

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