Converse Sticks to Creative Roots in China

Campaign Featuring Shanghai Collective Super Nature Follows Last Year's Indie Rock Theme

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Converse has partnered with the Shanghai-based artist collective, Super Nature.
Converse has partnered with the Shanghai-based artist collective, Super Nature.
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SHANGHAI (AdAgeChina.com) -- Nike is sticking close to China's creative fringes with the latest campaign for its Converse brand in the mainland, but the company is moving the focus from music to art this year.

The Nike-owned sportswear brand is launching a summer campaign called "NiZhiZhao" ("You're It") this month centered around a large scale multi-media work created by a Shanghai-based artist collective, Super Nature, which specializes in interactive digital art installations and experiences.

The artists' work, called "Me/Wonderland," explores the memories and childhood fantasies of a wonderland depicted through everyday objects such as light bulbs and painted toys as well as projections onto a balloon surface, said Nick Barham, exec creative director at Wieden + Kennedy in Shanghai, which handles creative for Nike and Converse in China.

Converse documented the development of the installation and turned those images into print and out-of-home ads and point-of-sale materials running in retail shops through the end of June.

"We want to show kids how creative processes work and that anyone can join in. Converse is a very democratic brand," Mr. Barham said.

Digital media is the heart of the campaign, since hip Chinese youth are among the most avid internet users in the world. Nike placed videos of different lengths about the installation on online video sharing portals like Tudou.com and Douban.com, a site that invites Chinese to connect through shared interests.

The videos and images are also running on Converse's brand site www.converse.com.cn, on screens placed in taxis in key cities like Shanghai and on LED screens placed at street level and on the sides of buildings.

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"On a brand level, Converse is all about supporting creativity and independence, and is always looking for people that embody that," Mr. Barham said. "Half of the artists and musicians we work with are already wearing the shoes and clothes so it's a natural fit. We work with people who are already fans of the brand."

On a product level, the latest campaign gave Nike "a nice backdrop," he added. The brand and product photography "had a consistency with the art being created. All of the artists were decked out in Converse."

Converse also partnered with Poco.cn, a social networking site, to publish an interactive series of "How to" videos that show viewers how to create fun things out of simple, everyday random objects, like how to make an ink stamp from Converse shoes or how to make fireworks from hong bao red packets given out at Chinese New Year. Thousands of kids have shared their own tips on the web site.

Super Nature is one of three Asian artists working with the Converse brand as part of a global campaign that started in January 2010 involving 24 artists worldwide.

Nike also tapped Bang Yao Liu, a student from Taipei who makes colorful scenes of entire cityscapes from plastic cups, utensils, tools and trash bins titled "Plastic City" and Be Our Friend, a design collective from Bangkok that portrays what happens when we dream in "Dream Catcher," using re-purposed materials such as bikes and old television sets.

Nick Barham
Nick Barham
Nike will take the artists on a road show to Shanghai, Chengdu and Beijing in late April and early May. Outside China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, the regional campaign is also running in Australia, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

"Converse runs six month programs of rolling content supporting creative culture and identifying artists and musicians rather than traditional campaigns," Mr. Barham said.

Last year, Converse sponsored Love Noise, a documentary film and integrated marketing campaign about a road trip around China with two Beijing-based groups, P.K.14 and Queen Sea Big Shark. As the bus tour and story unfolded, nine featured musicians revealed their personal journeys on the road to self-expression in a film directed by Liu Feng, a filmmaker who joined Wieden & Kennedy in 2005.

Converse was the first marketer in China "to have the guts to really do rock-and-roll, which every other brand said was too extreme, and now everyone is following -- Diesel, Vans, Coca-Cola, Li Ning. They are all signing the bands Converse broke, copying the style, and trying out the same opinion-leader work. It is remarkable," said P.T. Black, a partner at the Omnicom youth consultancy Jigsaw in Shanghai.


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