7 best Nike ads and marketing campaigns that get our approval

Nike-find your greatness

The greatest storyteller of all times? In my view it isn’t Roald Dahl, Stephen King, or Banksy. 

It’s Nike.

Why? Nike consistently manages to inspire the young, old, and everyone in between. Their marketing campaigns are fun, engaging, and personal in a way that hits you right in the feels. They make you want to go out there, buy the product, and be part of something bigger.

So in honor of CR7, here’s my roundup of the best Nike marketing campaigns from over the years.

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1. Find Your Greatness (2012)

You might say that, from what you would expect from a Nike commercial, this is the odd one out. It is truly minimalistic, yet resonates with so many people because it’s so relatable.

The Find Your Greatness campaign was released during the London Olympics in 2012. Nike had lost the Olympics sponsorship battle to Adidas. One of Nike’s values is “always on the offense” and this is what they showed, turning the loss of sponsorship into a win in social media buzz and sales revenue.

Nike launched a series of videos showing ordinary people striving to find their sporting greatness. You can see them all stitched together below.

Fun fact: The campaign was such a huge success that Nike’s Headquarters has a meeting room named after it!

2. Nike Freestyle (2001)

A personal favorite. Are the effects popping out? Nope. Is it mega on visual effects? Probably not. But damn, something in this Nike ad makes you dream crazy of becoming a streetballer.

The commercial is beautifully crafted to the tune of Planet Rock by hip-hop legend, Afrika Bambaataa, recreated with the beat of basketballs bouncing and sneakers squeaking on the floor of the court. Did you know that the sound is a necessity to players?

If that’s not enough, it all features a star-studded cast. You’ve got Vince Carter, Rasheed Wallace, and streetball god, Malloy “The Future” Nesmith. 

This commercial was Nike’s answer to AND1, which was an up-and-coming brand that dominated the streetball scene at that time. Nike basically destroyed AND1 with this commercial.

Don’t believe me? Check out Untold: The Rise and Fall of AND1 on Netflix. 

3. Seen It All, 50th Anniversary (2022)

Now for a more recent marketing campaign from Nike, and one that’s hard not to love.

In this short film, Spike Lee returns as Mars Blackmon. Mars Blackmon is a character he plays in the movie She’s Gotta Have It (1986), which he also wrote and directed. The character has also featured in a number of Nike Jordan commercials.

And if you’re still wondering who Spike Lee is (shame on you), look up Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X, and BlacKkKlansman – three of his best films.

The reason this was such a successful campaign is that Nike not only looks back with gratitude. They also express the excitement for the limitless opportunities there are for future generations. This speaks to another Nike brand value: “Creating the future of sport”.

4. Horror, Why Sport? (2000)

This commercial actually created a public outcry and was banned, so brace yourself.

Released during the Sydney Olympics in 2000, it featured Friday the 13th’s antagonist, Jason, and three-time Olympian 1,500m specialist, Suzy Favor-Hamilton.

The campaign aimed to be a playful parody on the horror genre. But public opinion was divided to say the least. NBC even pulled the advertisement from its Olympic broadcasting lineup. 

So why do I approve of this campaign? Because of its “shock” value.

To this day people still reference it and it’s now become a bit of a cult classic. And even though it backfired for Nike at the time, it made the brand stronger as a result.

Just like number seven in this list, it’s all about embracing failure.

5. Unlimited You (2016)

This Nike ad inspires you by spiraling out of control.

The moment the gymnast decides the commercial is not a wrap but a warm up and breaks free is epic. The narration and scenes in the second part of the commercial never fail to bring a smile to my face. 

I love the underlying message that if you want to grow you are going to have to go out there, be fearless, and destroy the barriers that are in front of you.

The commercial is the second video from Nike’s Unlimited campaign during the Rio Olympics in 2016. The campaign also included Unlimited Youth, Unlimited Future, Unlimited Will, Unlimited Courage, and Unlimited Together.

I recommend all of them. But for me, Unlimited You is the best of the bunch.

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6. Camp Next Level (2020)

Who says esports isn’t a sport? If you do, check this campaign and tell me if you feel the same after watching it.

The campaign was released just before the League of Legends Championship took place in Shanghai in 2020. 

Now I don’t know where the campaign was broadcast. What I do remember is that a huge Nike-head shared the video with me. Seeing the commercial for the first time, it just blew me away. 

The visual effects, the high energy, and the whimsical way esports is positioned at the same level as physical sports (or maybe even higher), is mega.

7. Failure (1997)

You can’t talk about Nike without talking about the legendary Michael Jordan.

What I like so much about this one is that it’s such an honest commercial. It’s short, simple, and straight to the point with a powerful message.

We all fail over and over again. And that is why we succeed. 

What makes Nike’s marketing strategy so successful

Nike advertising strategy has been praised for years. Books had been written, many marketing courses were inspired by it, and even movies were made base of the success of their advertising campaigns.

And the recipe is simple – besides creating an athletic appeal, they always make sure to always add a little bit of emotional appeal to everything you do.

So here are the three things that all Nike’ most famous ads have:

  1. Emotional branding and storytelling
  2. Influencer and athlete endorsements
  3. Innovation and product development

Emotional branding and storytelling

Nike is a textbook example of how to do emotional storytelling as part of an advertising campaign. By featuring athletes’ journeys and personal stories of triumph Nike created a unique sports world where athletes and the audience can establish an emotional connection.

Campaigns like “Dream Crazier,” which highlights female athletes breaking barriers, and the Colin Kaepernick campaign, which emphasizes standing up for beliefs, resonate deeply with their target audience on an emotional level.

Athlete and celebrity endorsements

Nike is a big player in the sports world. And one of the reasons for that are their numerous partnerships with top professional athletes and sports teams which became central to the brand’s marketing strategy. By associating themself with successful and influential athletes like Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Serena Williams, and Cristiano Ronaldo, Nike uses their popularity and credibility to boost its own brand image.

The Air Jordan line, for example, is a direct result of the successful collaboration with Michael Jordan and has become a cornerstone of Nike’s product offerings.

Innovation and product development

Nike invests heavily in research and development to create innovative athletic apparel that improve athletic performance. This includes advancements in footwear technology, like the Nike Air cushioning system, Flyknit material, and self-lacing shoes.

These innovations not only improve the functionality of their products but also reinforce Nike’s image as a leader in sportswear technology. Plus they use as a great source of inspiration for their marketing campaigns.

How to speed up marketing approval process on Nike ads

In a global company like Nike, there are numerous stakeholders that need to be included in the approval of each new marketing campaign. And without an adequate approval tool, this process can take days, if not weeks.

With a marketing approval software like Filestage, your team won’t have to chase stakeholders for feedback, leaving them more time and energy to focus on the creative side of the process. 

Filestage allows teams to share, discuss, and approve all their files, all in one place – including documents, images, videos, websites, and audio files.