What The King Commands: Digital Bonds For Digital Natives

Television advertising is not now dead, nor will it soon be. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been diminished by the great leveler. And if your best customers are digital natives, hello…you’ve got to fish where the fish are.

According to Fortune, that is Nike’s precise intention, and the reason Nike Digital Sport, a new division the company was launched in 2010.

Digital Sport is not just about creating must-have sports gadgets. Getting so close to its consumers’ data holds exceptional promise for one of the world’s greatest marketers: It means it can follow them, build an online community for them, and forge a tighter relationship with them than ever before. It’s part of a bigger, broader effort to shift the bulk of Nike’s marketing efforts into the digital realm — and it marks the biggest change in Beaverton since the creation of just do it.

Nike’s spending on TV and print advertising in the U.S. has dropped by 40% in just three years, even as its total marketing budget has steadily climbed upward to hit a record $2.4 billion last year. “Clearly they think they can get by without big television campaigns anymore,” notes Jon Bond, co-founder of Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners who now runs a social media agency.

Of course, the shift to digital also means Nike’s longtime partner, Wieden + Kennedy, has to share the impressive conference room table with digital partners, large and small.

The Fortune article mentions some of the large, but when there’s an economic force like Nike in your city, many locals benefit — everyone from the dry cleaners that clean the executives’ track suits to the design firms that take care of some small, but important, problem.

For example, Instrument in Portland handles web dev (and social media) duties for Nike’s action sports lines. With Nike, Adidas America and Columbia Sportswear all headquartered here, Portland is a global sportswear capitol, and many of the local agencies have a piece of the action to one degree or another. Including me. I write copy for Columbia from time to time.

Thankfully, Nike is big enough to support an entire design and advertising ecosystem, not just its TV shop. And the reality is we are all in the big idea game today. There’s still a need for special knowledge and ability in one media or another, but that’s an executional consideration. The team that helps Nike (or any client) build tighter bonds with prospects and customers is the winning team. Special nods like “agency of record” become mostly meaningless at that point.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.