Each building on the sprawling grounds pays homage to an individual athlete. Most of my meetings selling Tennis magazine took place in the McEnroe building, where Johnny Mac memorabilia is delicately encased in its spacious lobby for your viewing pleasure. One time while sitting with my publisher after checking in for our scheduled appointment, we witnessed a surge of people come towards the building's glass front doors. Those holding cameras pulled up respectfully shy of the entrance, while a man holding a cigar walked right in. Dressed to the nines and exhaling the glow of a recent championship, Michael Jordan breezed past reception, disappearing around the corner as if he owned the place.
Seeing star athletes on campus was an exciting and unexpected thrill, but the real joy calling on Nike came from meeting with those responsible for managing Nike's marketing communication. They were collectively cordial, confident but not arrogant, and firmly shared what they wanted to achieve. If you made it into their buildings as a publisher, you were invited to help them reach their goals and to enjoy the house discount at the employee store.
In 1999, after years of selling the tennis market and buying anything with a swoosh on it, I went back up to the Nike campus, this time to the Dan Fouts building, to pitch an integrated online proposal for Ign.com. Pumped up on dot-com steroids, I presented a dynamic sponsorship on a Web site that did a great job of delivering Nike's teen target audience. The mock-up had the company's infamous logo on all our pages, and when clicked on, the reader would land on a cobranded microsite promoting a variety of sports content featuring Nike-endorsed athletes.
With blinders that covered my ears, I talked way too much about how perfect this audience and this program was for Nike, and that they needed to look at the Internet before they were left behind (or something as obscenely obnoxious like that). Brian, one of the clients in the room, who I had gotten to know over the years, stepped in before I babbled myself to death. He politely explained that "we're not gonna rush our brand online for the sake of being there. There are many places we could put the swoosh, but we choose to put it only where it really means something to the consumer."
At the moment he shared this insight, all I heard was that I was not going to walk out with the business my bosses hired me to break. After reading about the deal Nike struck with Google last week, I can now finally hear what Brian was saying.
The collaboration is called Joga.com, and it is a customized social network dedicated to a singular passion of soccer. Users are invited to join, which brilliantly induces registration. However, the real beauty of this deal is the simultaneous benefits that occur for both the user and the advertiser.
These are the kinds of deals, as salespeople, that we wish we sold. The lesson all publishers, big and small, can take away here is that if you replace the term content integration with benefit integration, you can strike integration gold like this one. The hard part is identifying the advertiser who uniquely cares as much about the content as your readers.
Joga stands for "Joga Bonita" which means "playing beautiful" in Portuguese. What is the term for beautiful marketing?