Nike makes tracks to celebrate Liu triumph

Ads debut hours after hurtle record is broken

By Published on .

SHANGHAI--Less than one day after the Chinese track-and-field star Liu Xiang broke his own world record for the 110 meter hurtle at 12:88 seconds, Nike Inc. launched its own race to quickly execute a simple but widely-seen ad campaign to celebrate his triumph.

The record was broken at the Athletissima Grand Prix in Lausanne, Switzerland, on July 12, at 4 a.m. (Shanghai time), one day before the athlete’s 24th birthday. Mr. Liu set the previous record, 12.91 sec, during the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004. Nike has sponsored Mr. Liu since 2002.

Five hours later, Nike’s creative and media agencies in Shanghai, Wieden & Kennedy and GroupM's MindShare, respectively, were given eight hours to prepare an ad to run on the the side of the Aurora skyscraper near the Bund in Shanghai.

"It was a unique opportunity to connect with consumers," said Ginger Zhu, Nike's director of communications in Shanghai, Nike's China headquarters as well as Mr. Liu’s hometown.

Even earlier in the day, banner ads and pop-ups ads of white numbers in a stopwatch-like font, counting up to 12:88 seconds in real-time on a red background, were placed on Nike’s Chinese home page ( and other sites such as the Chinese portal Sina’s sports channel.

On July 13, ads also appeared in TV, print media including the front page of major titles such as the Beijing Morning Post and Shanghai's Oriental Sports Daily and outdoor media sites, including a 100 square meter ad on Huai Hai Road in central Shanghai.

The U.S. sportswear giant generated further coverage that afternoon, when Mr. Liu arrived at Beijing International Airport wearing a Nike-sponsored “12.88” t-shirt. Photographs of the event were immediately transmitted across the country via TV, print, online coverage and web forums.

By the following day, Nike expanded the campaign to large-scale outdoor media sites, such as a 500 square meter billboard in Beijing’s downtown Wang Fu Jing district. GroupM's Portland division handled the outdoor negotiation and purchase, while E-Vision, a local digital-design company, adapted the creative for Nike's Chinese website.

The record was particularly important because “Chinese culture places great emphasis on the importance of numbers, and coincidentally, the number eight is a very lucky number,” said Alistair Lennie, planning director at MindShare, Shanghai. Superstitious Chinese “will pay vast sums for telephone numbers or number plates with several eights,” making Mr. Liu’s score, 12.88 sec, especially lucky.

The agencies are still trying to estimate the number of people exposed to the campaign either through advertising, press coverage or web forums, but the CCTV5 coverage alone is believed to have reached 46 million 15-24 year-olds, Nike's core target market, and more than 165 million total viewers nationwide, according to Mr. Lennie.
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