2007 Creativity Award Winner: Nike+

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We're always excited to applaud commercials that change our way of thinking about what can be achieved in 60 seconds or less, or integrated ideas that travel unexpected avenues to deliver brand messages to the consumer. But Nike+ changed the playing field altogether, introducing an innovative product application by which not just one, but two great brands elevated their game. Partnering with Apple, Nike approached R/GA to develop Nike+, a system that leverages the athletic legacy of the sports brand and the technological and design mastery of the iPod to broaden both the solo and interactive experience of the sport of running. The Nike+ system essentially enables a Nike shoe (or any footwear set up with a Nike+ tracking device) to "talk to" an athlete's iPod Nano, wirelessly transmitting a runners' stats to the iPod, from which they can then be uploaded onto iTunes. Via the Nike+ website and various desktop widgets, athletes can then track their own progress and goals and hook up with a larger community of other Nike+ runners to compare performance and even set up their own competitions. The online portal also utilizes other applications like Google maps to help runners find trails in their own neighborhood or around the world. If that isn't enough, the Nike+ site also accommodates a breadth of season-based marketing initiatives created by R/GA or other Nike partner agencies, featuring different events and various Nike-sponsored athletes.

Q&A with Nick Law, R/GA EVP/Chief Creative Officer, North America

Tell us about the origins of this project.

Nick Law: We had worked with Nike for several years on designing and developing online training for runners, including the NikeRunning.com training log, and a data platform for early distance monitors and MP3 players. Then in late 2005, R/GA received an RFP from Nike naming Apple as the hardware partner for the project. What they wanted R/GA to develop was an overall design system, including seamless data transfer and web application that took a runner's run data from iPod to iTunes to the Web. We designed an experience that combined the simple intuitiveness of Apple with the dynamism of Nike.

How did the partnership between Nike and Apple come about? Any interesting challenges in regards to dealing with both clients?

Law: Steve Jobs, Apple CEO and Mark Parker, then Nike Co-President, recognized that there was a huge opportunity to partner their iconic, global brands, and provide consumers with the world's best combination of music and sport. Both companies were fully aligned, and the most interesting challenge from the R/GA perspective was ensuring a seamless consumer experience from shoe to iPod to iTunes to NikePlus.com. R/GA's Interaction Design and Visual Design teams worked closely with Nike's Brand Design team and Apple's iPod and iTunes engineering teams to deliver a consistent experience that represented both brands together.

What do you consider the most successful aspect of this project?

Law: Beyond the creative and technical innovations in the Nike+ project, our proudest achievement is that Nike+ has reinvented the sport of running. Running was formerly an isolated fitness activity for dedicated health-conscious athletes, performed alone or at best in small groups, and relegated to memory the instant a run is completed. But with Nike+, running is now a fun, social, digitally-enhanced sport. You get great music, training tips, and helpful, instant audio feedback while you run, and afterwards, your runs are no longer forgotten—they live on in your Nike+ account, where you can visualize and be motivated by your athletic progress over time. Your miles in the real world are aggregated online to help you achieve your goals, to connect and compete with hundreds of thousands of fellow community members around the world, and to benefit charities through your efforts. In less than a year, the Nike+ community members have run an astounding 13 million miles together. People of all ages, of every shape, size and ability, are now Nike+ runners, discovering a wholly new way to enjoy their exercise.

How has Nike+ influenced the way you view marketing and advertising?

Law: Nike+ is more than marketing and advertising. What we helped create is not just the messaging; it's the product itself. Where most initiatives focus on enticing consumers to complete a purchase, Nike+ continues to engage the consumer long after the transaction has occurred, keeping Nike+ runners motivated and connected, with each other and with the Brand. Nike+ is revolutionizing marketing: people are beginning to expect more from a brand than a witty narrative, and Nike+ redefines how a brand can reach its audience through meaningful enabling experiences.
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