A quintessentially American company – Nike has a history of creating inspirational global advertising campaigns.

For its latest in the UK, the brand has taken a much more localised approach, honing in on the city of London and its swathes of determined and passionate young athletes.

Since its release, ‘Nothing Beats a Londoner’, created by agency Wieden & Kennedy, has been met with huge praise from the majority of critics and consumers. 

So, what exactly makes it so powerful? Here’s a few reasons why I think it hits the mark, plus a bit of analysis on whether or not its hyper-local approach could alienate consumers outside of the Big Smoke.

People vs. place

While Nike often uses professional athletes as a source of inspiration, ‘Nothing Beats a Londoner’ uses real kids from the capital. The three-minute film showcases the variety of sport that takes place here, and celebrates the grit and determination displayed by those partaking in it. 

There is also a sense of competitiveness and ‘one-upmanship’ involved, with each kid expressing how tough it is to train in their respective boroughs. 

Though London is a hugely important part of the ad – used as a backdrop and a cultural reference point – it is the people that take centre stage. Up until now, the brand has perhaps been guilty of going too mass-market, focusing on sports like football and only using big-name celebrities in ad campaigns. This has meant that the brand somewhat lost touch with its target market and the role sport plays in their everyday lives (something Adidas is focusing on through dark social).

By turning the tables and focusing on the reality of sport in London, also using humour and colloquial language, Nike ensures that the ad resonates with its target audience of young, city-dwelling consumers. The decision to film on 16mm instead of digital further helps to create a sense of realism rather than coming across as yet another glossy ad.

Avoids clichés 

One of the most effective elements of the ad is that, despite being set in London, it avoids all the stereotypes that you might usually expect. There’s no Big Ben or London Eye – not even a glimpse of the Olympic or Emirates stadiums. 

Instead, we see the streets or Peckham, inside local boxing rings and basketball courts.

This gives the ad a sense of authenticity, with Nike deliberately avoiding clichés that might even make it more relatable or recognisable to a mass-market audience, but that would only dilute its impact on the target consumer. 

By avoiding clichés, the ad also instils a sense of real pride in Londoners and Brits in general. With London often being the subject of criticism relating to crime, poverty, and homelessness etc. – it shines a light on the positive aspects of the city and its determined and proud communities. 

Credible celebrity inclusion 

Alongside 258 members of the public, the ad also features a number of celebrities and athletes, ranging from Olympic medallist Mo Farah to grime artist AJ Tracy. However, unlike previous ads that revolve around famous faces, the inclusion this time is both subtle and seamless.

It’s so seamless in fact that it doesn’t matter if the famous faces are not so recognisable to you, as they still blend in with the ad’s narrative, and merely complementing the starring role of the kids.

The specific choice of celebrities is also something to admire, as Nike has clearly steered away from the most obvious or indeed famous, instead choosing those who are both credible and inspirational to young Londoners.  

Shareable content

While the ad’s success is certainly down to its creative and inspiring content, it also helps that the format is perfectly aligned to user habits. At three minutes long, the full film is short enough to capture attention on mobile – which also makes it highly shareable. So far, the ad has generated 4.6m views on YouTube in the space of a week.

Nike has also ensured interest on social media by letting those who star in it publish their own standalone parts on Instagram. This activity has also extended the ad’s competition-element, with kids tagging others in their posts and ‘calling out’ their so-called sporting prowess. It’s all meant in jest, of course, merely serving to promote the campaign and ramping up interest on social.

Does it alienate other consumers?

Despite generating huge interest, not all of the reaction to Nike’s ad has been positive. First, though it aims to celebrate diversity, it has been criticised for failing to include any South Asians, despite this group being a huge part of London’s population (and one with a thriving involvement in sport, specifically cricket). 

Elsewhere, the ad has unsurprisingly drawn criticism from people outside of London, with many taking against its claim that ‘nothing beats a Londoner’. What about Manchester, Bristol, or Glasgow – shouts social media? Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a brand generating a bit of mild competition. This can only serve to ramp up conversation about the ad on social, which Nike is likely to view as a positive. 

That being said, there’s also the question of whether or not the ad alienates other consumers who can’t necessarily relate to feeling pride in a big city. 

In this sense, consumers in small towns and villages across the UK might feel left out of the conversation and unable to relate – both to the ad and Nike in general. It’s hard to say whether this is the case, but it certainly poses an interesting question for brands taking a localised approach to marketing, especially when the location in question is such a big metropolitan city. 

For Nike, the decision to focus on London’s inner-city communities has been a gamble, but it is one that overall appears to have paid off. With a creative, authentic, and highly shareable ad – it has created the ideal formula for re-connecting with its core audience. Unsurprisingly, talk on social has since turned to which UK city will be next. 

More on Nike:

Nikki Gilliland

Published 21 February, 2018 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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