A thriving community was an unexpected plus for Nike. Nike + Apple = run with the music you love. It was a no-brainer. But when Nike let runners connect and compete, its marketing effort went down a
The Nike+, introduced in July 2006, is a running shoe with a twist: A sensor in the shoe keeps track of how far and how fast you run. Thanks to a groundbreaking partnership with
Apple, you can get immediate feedback on your pace, total mileage and calories burned via an iPod Nano or special Nike wristband. So, in addition to providing the soundtrack for your run, the device
becomes your personal trainer.
"It became a great motivational tool," says Stefan Olander, Nike's global director of brand connections.
After the run, you can
track your progress by synching the Nano to nikeplus.com, designed by R/GA. When the site launched in June 2006, Nike thought this individual goal-setting and tracking functionality would be the big
deal. But the Web site included some unobtrusive links that let people connect with others - and as runners got creative with the online applications, that part blew up.
For example, when
Nike introduced a mashup with Google Maps that let runners plot their courses, people also used it to look at publicly posted runs near them and find running buddies. Nike and Apple assumed the user
forums would focus on using the products and solving technical problems, but the most active topic remains organizing runs and challenges.
The community now has more than 500,000 members,
with their online activities running on Jive Software's community platform. The community is as active offline as online. In July 2007, Nike held its first "super users" summit, flying
them to Nike headquarters for a roundtable discussion of the product, marketing, Web site and community. Between the forums and the meetings with super users, customers have generated thousands of
ideas for Nike.
"We want to make sure we're using all the insights we can get," Olander says. "We get instant feedback through the forums, and the connection with super
users is even closer."
The community has propelled sales, too. When Nike analyzed its user data, it found that 40 percent of members who hadn't owned Nike+ when they joined had
bought the shoes. The program has also had a halo effect on sales of other shoes, apparel and equipment. For example, after runners log enough miles on the Web site, they can commemorate it by
creating a customized shirt on Nike ID.
The community has real-world extensions, too. The most recent Nike+ Human Race took place in September in 25 cities around the globe, but runners
could do their 10K anywhere, then post their times on the site and see how they ranked compared to the top runners in each official city, or compared to all Nike+ runners.
"With Nike+, you're part of a greater community. You never have to run alone again."