Time and time again, Nike shows you why they have led the foot apparel industry for 30+ years (their current market cap hovers somewhere north of $34 billion). We have seen many shoe company’s come and go (“I’m looking at YOU, Pro Keds & British Knights!), but not Nike. It could be just as easy for Nike to fall back on brand awareness and “phone it in” on a new commercial. I mean, as long as you figure that you’re getting the brand name out there and into the public eye, then you’re moving the brand forward, right?
However, Nike has stayed on top of their game not because they understand that “what got you to this pinnacle— is NOT going to get you to the next! Because they’re willing to push the limits of what’s possible with their style of advertising (i.e.- Brand -based), they’re constantly defining who they are and WHAT their brand is.
Their latest spot for the new shoes from LeBron James, called the Season Six, features LeBron and his now famous pre-game routine in which he throws a handful of talcum powder into the air. It’s an captivating moment, and ‘Chalk’ captures that moment and the mystique within it and turns it into a strong, beautiful, and inspirational commercial that relates to the everyday person.
At this point, I hope you have looked at the commercial and can see the essence of what this moment is to Nike. If not, here are some of the things I noticed:
- Let’s start with the music… the track is called “Candyman” and comes from a British garage band called CornerShop. The song has several different purposes. First, it has a very hip, modern appeal to it. Very mellow and laid back. The song sings to that person trying to live out their dreams in the face of naysayers. Something that easily meshes with LBJ’s career. It also has an international appeal as I think you will see a huge marketing campaign towards Lebron during this year’s London Olympics. Finally, Nike gave Lil Wayne a spot in the commercial, which shows that it knows it’s age demographic and what they listen to.
- Speaking of Lil Wayne’s cameo in the commercial, he too, has a “rags to riches” story that could be looked at as an individual who defied all odds. This resonates with many youth who come from the streets and are looking to do something greater than what they are expected to do. Notice how Wayne brushes the “chalk” off his shoes in a “look at me now” type of manner.
- Jamie Nared, whose cameo in the commercial features her playing against a team of boys (Jamie was kicked off of her high school’s basketball team for being too good) as well as a shot of her standing alone in the girls locker room shows that Nike understands the struggle for success that their target audience must go through. This is also a symbolic caption of the struggle that female athletes must go through to overcome the barriers that still exist in male-dominated sports.
- In addition to LeBron and Jamie, the chalk is also thrown by a barber, an amateur basketball player, a student, fans at the game and a donut maker, covering them all and symbolizing the fact that they too have the opportunity to reach their potential— just as Lebron did! Nike understands the power of the players that they sponsor. (Nike’s contract for LeBron was $90 million over 7 years, though they made it when his skills in the NBA were still untested. However, they were willing to support him because they believed in his potential.)
- One more thing about the barbershop and donut shop is that it takes the idea/product to where their customer is. Taking away the stigma that their product is not just for people who live in a six-figure income bracket, but it’s for anyone who has the mindset to achieve greater heights. Similar to the “Like Mike” branding of the 80s and 90s.
The mix of music, everyday life outside of the playing field/court, struggle, inspiration and community all combine to show that Nike understands the target audience that it is advertising to better than any other shoe company, and if you’re part of that target audience, then "Chalk" shows that Nike understands you as well. You feel a connection to the brand, and you feel inspired to use your skills like LeBron has used his to conquer whatever obstacles stand in your way.
… This is an example of GREAT branding!