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|Nike's Volt shoes capture marketing gold
"I love the colour of the shoes," Canadian hurdler Phylicia George said via e-mail. "It's easy to notice if you watch them on the track and they stick out."
And that's precisely what Nike wanted. TV viewers around the world have no doubt been asking "What's with all those yellow shoes?"
While its rival Adidas reportedly spent a lot more than $150 million to become the state London sponsor,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych],[link widoczny dla zalogowanych],[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], Nike has were able to sidestep strict marketing rules because shoes are not subject to official clothing-use requirements.
"Using the volt colour for all of the Nike shoes is made to create a bold statement on sport's biggest stage,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych]," Martin Lotti,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], Nike's global creative director said through a company spokeswoman.
Nike has got great bang for its buck with the Volt, says Scott Martyn, a school of Windsor professor who specializes in sport and Olympic history.
"You have to say that the (marketing) value for money is fantastic,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], that they've done exceedingly well because of the relative investment and they've capitalized onto it quite significantly," said Martyn.
Martyn said Nike's success with the Volt is similar to the attention the company gained by providing gold shoes to retired American sprinter Michael Johnson,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych]. He used these phones win the 200 metres inside a world-record time in the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych].
"They're searching for some form of visual return or return on investment beyond this is the point out that they sponsor X," said Martyn. "Shoes is one manner in which those restrictions that are positioned on product advertising are somewhat inside a grey area. To allow them to actually address it by not enhancing the relative size of the Nike swoosh. But the things they're doing is, they really change the colour to some vibrant colour,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], and for that reason your attention is drawn to it, and you happen to begin to see the Nike swoosh."
Martyn said Nike has thrived on creating a splash at the Games over the years without being a top-level Olympic sponsor. Because of the constraints the IOC places on advertising, companies need to get creative.
"In essence, they haven't paid for the rights, or they haven't secured the privileges to call themselves an official sponsor," said Martyn. "But for whatever reason, the general public develops a connection, due to the advertising campaign, together towards the Olympic Games."
Over the years, there have been many cases of ambush marketing in the Olympics. Which is prone to continue, says Martyn.
"If history is any suggestion, there's lots of effort of maximizing (a sponsor's) association (with an athlete) and stretching that affiliation as far as possible before someone says you've gone too far,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych],[link widoczny dla zalogowanych]," said Martyn.
But while Nike achieves marketing success, its strategy might lead to concern for the International Olympic Committee. Noting that Nike is much more inside the "Olympic house" than it used to be in terms of sponsorship, Martyn predicted the IOC will continue its efforts to increase Nike's Olympic-related investments instead of cracking recorded on its unofficial marketing activities.
Attempts to punish ambush marketers,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], he added, haven't been successful because of the public backlash.
Bill Cooper,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], former director of commercial rights management for Vancouver's Olympic organizing committee, said Nike has produced an "iconic" shoe with the Volt.
"And to reach that visibility is most likely quite strategic," said Cooper, who also managed and protected the Olympic brand for that Canadian Olympic Committee in 2010 and still consults for the COC. "Obviously,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], come july 1st, the focus on athletics is a great opportunity for sport manufacturers they are driving revenue. So they will do their finest to exploit that consumer enthusiasm and launch products that are visible and iconic and, hopefully,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], have that result in sales."
But Cooper said it's dangerous to call Nike an ambush marketer,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych],[link widoczny dla zalogowanych].
"It's tricky with Nike,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych],[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], because Nike contributes a phenomenal quantity of (financial) support to athletes and teams and national Olympic committees all over the world," he said.
"They have a very legitimate story to tell whereas other organizations, who truly do partake in ambush marketing in the most damaging format, don't necessarily contribute to amateur sport. They simply ride about the coattails of the Olympic movement and undertake marketing activities that marginalize the commercial integrity from the Olympic movement without contributing to amateur sport."
Meanwhile, George says athletes would balk if told to put on the official shoe brand in the Games - and not simply for sponsorship-related reasons.
"Shoe options are extremely important,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych]," said George,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], who wore the yellow shoes while finishing sixth within the 100-metre hurdles the 2009 week. "A track athlete's spikes are like a piece of equipment that should be specifically fitted on their behalf. Not every spike works well for every athlete."
Bolt,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], for instance, wears Puma footwear.
But Cooper says Nike's actions pose some concern towards the IOC. As the Olympics have grown through the years,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych],[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], the request for investment from sponsors, product licencees and broadcasters has increased accordingly. The IOC's promise to safeguard the Olympic brand has also grown.
Cooper says in order for amateur sport to stay financially sustainable over the long-term, the IOC and its international sponsors must co-exist with Games, athlete and team sponsors.
"If (they) are not able to co-exist and they do not have sufficient room to inform their marketing story, then the whole system starts to lose a little bit of commercial sustainability,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych]," said Cooper. "That private-sector funding is the reason why the system tick."
He predicted the IOC and sponsors at various levels will continue to find it difficult to strike a delicate balance. Given Nike's extensive sponsorship of Canadian teams and individual athletes, maintaining the total amount is going to be answer to Canada's future Olympic efforts.
However, the official Games sponsorship shoe will be on the other foot in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Nike will serve because the official sponsor of those Games, while Adidas come in a potential position to ambush its rival.