Nike Takes Battle of the Brands

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AICP's Matt Miller presents Justin Wilkes with the award
AICP's Matt Miller presents Justin Wilkes with the award
On Wednesday at NBC's Studio 8H, better known as the home of Saturday Night Live, a new cast of characters took the stage, during the ANA/AICP "Battle of the Brands," part of the organizations' Forum for Branded Entertainment. Designed to celebrate marketers and their creative partners for innovative successes in the branded content arena, the contest, in its second year, put before a marketer-dominated crowd four finalists: last year's winner Rainier Beer, for its "Operation Liberation" campaign; Cadillac, for the "Under 5" campaign; Audi, for "Art of the Heist;" and Nike, for its continuing Battlegrounds: King of the Court MTV series. The spirited showdown involved everything from improv to goofy costumes—two actors performed under 5-second scenes from various classics for Cadillac, while Rainier trotted out a giant beer bottle with legs. But in the end, the shoe giant took home the grand prize, thanks in part to a winning monologue from Justin Wilkes, executive producer and head of content at, about Nike's Battlegrounds project.

Oddly enough, "I had no idea what I was getting myself into," Wilkes says. "I thought they were just going to announce the winner. Who knew you've got to get up on the stage, do this song and dance, it was like a big deal. The rehearsal was the first sign that we were a little bit in over our heads. People were getting out the costumes, the Powerpoint, it's on the stage at Saturday Night Live, which is so intimidating. I was thinking, 'Oh my god I'm going to totally embarrass the company because I'm not even remotely prepared for this.'" But Wilkes' barebones conversational presentation about the organic success of the series, which over the years has developed into a successful entertainment property while resonating with its audience and actually selling shoes, helped to win over the audience. Nike also won additional prizes for strategy, production ingenuity and business performance. Additionally, McKinney+Silver GCD Jonathan Cude and Chelsea Picture/Campfire director Mike Monello got on stage to present the hard data behind their successful work on Audi's elaborate alternate reality gaming effort, "Art of the Heist," taking the home the prize for creativity.
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