"We had to immerse ourselves in the Nike culture, which for a small, East Coast-based agency working with a Portland company, it was difficult at times for us," said R/GA Chairman Bob Greenberg. "It's a culture that's very strong within the brands themselves. But we did have a base to work with, and that is that they wanted very experiential Web sites."
The result was online marketing initiatives, for several Nike Web sites, including: nike.com, the company's global home site; nikegoddess.com, designed specifically for women; nikelab.com, a futuristic, interactive tour of Nike products; nikebasketball.com, which includes the animated series "Hooptown" and "Sole System," a history of Nike basketball shoes; and nikerunning.com, which includes shoe comparisons, pace calculators and other tool sets for the avid runner. Collectively, they draw more unique visitors than sites for competitors Adidas and Reebok (see chart, below right). Altogether, the agency handles seven of the company's 15 sites.
`a different channel'
"For a lot of companies, the idea of using the Web is to copy and paste a commercial onto their site. But Nike is smart enough to realize that the Web as a medium is a different channel," said Rei Inamoto, R/GA's creative director. "A Web site is a destination that people come to. If people are spending a couple of minutes there, in a traditional advertising sense that's an amazing brand awareness."
That's why the Nike sites had to be different and innovative-a hallmark of the company's advertising, from Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., that consumers have come to expect. For nikelab.com, for instance, R/GA used the latest digital design tools of Flash MX and Shockwave to build the site. R/GA also worked with New York-based Tronic Studio to create a 3-D product presentation that lets users "peel away" layers of the product to reveal the underlying structure and technology.
"A Nike audience has a more common knowledge and tends to be a younger audience," Mr. Inamoto said. "Their interests differentiate from one thing to another. There are different levels of technical savviness. Nikelab is centered within the Nike consumer mind-set and caters to those who seek new things."
A symbiotic relationship exists among Nike, Wieden and R/GA so that when Wieden is introducing a campaign, R/GA gets briefed, "which is really unusual for an interactive agency," Mr. Greenberg said. Three years ago, submerging itself into Nike's culture was the first priority. Today, R/GA has 50 employees who work exclusively on the Nike business. "Not only do we not have to push them creatively, they push us," Mr. Inamoto said.