In China, most young people are only exposed to running at
school, where they're forced take part in physical-education
classes or athletic drills. Across much of Asia, running is not
something most people in heavily polluted cities choose to do with
their leisure time, least of all on streets jammed with cars,
bikes, pedestrians, rickshaws and roadside shops. The joke is that
when there's a person running in the city (and it's often a
Westerner), people turn to see who's chasing him.
In contrast, a new web film for Nike Running in the U.S. tells
consumers: "Never Stop Running."
Faced with the challenge of getting Chinese to even put on
running shoes, Nike launched its "Run For" campaign with AKQA
creating a call-to-action video for Chinese social-media networks
and video-sharing sites featuring runners who talk about why they
run. The video then asks people to submit their own reasons.
"I run to make the hidden visible," one young woman says in the
teaser video. "I run to get lost," says another.
Ordinary runners submitted their stories to Nike 's microblog
account on the Sina Weibo platform, and the AKQA team created a
collection of professional videos based on the best entries.
"We wanted to make sure it wasn't necessarily Nike telling
[consumers] why running is good, so the whole entry point with the
communication is really leveraging stories of the few runners who
are out there," said Johan Vakidis, exec creative director at AKQA
Like the story of Salad -- a stressed-out 25-year-old office
worker who lives in Shanghai. "The city is always noisy and busy.
This adds even more pressure to my day," she says. "I guess for me,
running is about shutting down the noise."
One key to Nike 's marketing strategy is making running a social
event for young, urban, image-conscious Chinese. That is , after
they've been persuaded to turn off the computer, put down the phone
and log off from social media.
"It doesn't come with spectators like basketball and football,
where you can show your stuff and show how cool you are. There's no
credibility earned through running," Mr. Lum said. "Running needs
to give you social currency, so what can Nike do for you when you
go running, so you can be recognized or worshiped by your
So as part of the campaign, Nike hosted "Lunar Runs" in Beijing,
Shanghai, Guangzhou and Wuhan. The neon-lit nighttime events
featured fitness instructors, live music and a few celebrities, to
remind college students and young professionals that running is a
fun activity that can be done at night, after classes or work. (The
event's name also ties into Nike 's Lunar Glide running shoe.)
"In China I think people generally understand the benefit of
sports, but we need to give them an inspiration. How can we drive
them to really go out of their house, to get off the couch and do
something physical?" asked Jeanne Huang, Nike 's communications
director for Greater China.
Though Nike doesn't release sales figures by category, and
running certainly remains a niche sport in the country, the
campaign seems to be doing its job of getting more people
interested in at least giving running a try. Nike engaged with more
than 35,000 potential runners during its Lunar Runs and during a
four-day Festival of Sports event in Shanghai.
"It's a very long road for us but ... we started feeling there's
an interesting kind of positive perception about running right now
in China. We just want to create this momentum and carry it
forward," Ms. Huang said.