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Marketer: Nike Agencies: Wieden & Kennedy and MindShare, both Shanghai, China

Nike races to celebrate track star's record for speed by turning around an ad campaign in hours

[shanghai, china] Less than a day after Chinese track-and-field star Liu Xiang broke a world record in Lausanne, Switzerland, on July 12 by completing the 110-meter hurdle in 12.88 seconds, Nike launched its own race to celebrate his triumph. Nike has sponsored Mr. Liu since 2002.

The record was broken at 4 a.m. Shanghai time. Five hours later, Nike's creative and media agencies, Wieden & Kennedy and MindShare, were given eight hours to get an electronic outdoor ad on the side of the Aurora skyscraper near Shanghai's riverside Bund district.

Internet ads showing white numbers in a stopwatch-like font, counting up to 12.88 seconds in real time on a red background also appeared on Nike's Chinese home page ( and other Chinese sports sites. On July 13, the ad appeared in newspapers and on TV and billboards.

Nike generated further coverage that afternoon when Mr. Liu arrived at Beijing's airport wearing a Nike-sponsored "12.88" T-shirt. Photographs immediately appeared across the country via TV, print and online coverage as well as web forums. The next day, Nike expanded the campaign to even larger outdoor-media sites, such as a 500-square-meter billboard in Beijing.

The record Mr. Liu set is 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 time of 12.88 seconds particularly lucky.

Although it's not possible to be sure how many Chinese were exposed to the campaign through advertising, press coverage and web forums combined, Mr. Lennie said the CCTV5 coverage alone reached 46 million 15-to-24-year-olds, Nike's core target market, and more than 165 million total TV viewers nationwide.
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