Experience Design: Nike and Runners

Much has been written about Nike’s groundbreaking programs for Basketball fans (aka “ballers”) and Runners. Nike is one of the few brands that understands they are in the business of enabling people to become better runners or basketball players, as opposed to selling sports gear. Nike leverages many online and offline programs to deliver on this promise.

I have been familiar with Nike’s online programs for runners for a while now – I gave my father an iPod with a Nike+ attachment a few years back. Nike+ is one of the coolest web supported applications that has been designed in the past years. However, it is only one part of much larger initiative to engage runners. Two interesting characteristic that bind together all of Nike’s efforts are: their attempt to create a community around this individual sport; their ability to integrate the Nike brand in to these communities in way that is positive and adds value to the community. To illustrate this point I will highlight two initiative of which I recently became aware – I do want to point out that these initiative are new to me, but they were actually launched several years ago. The first initiative is Nike’s Run NYC community; the second is Nike’s Runner Stations.

Building Communities of Runners
Nike supports communities of runners in 15 cities throughout the United States. For each of these communities, Nike keeps a regularly updated blog that provides updates regarding past and future events that range from group runs and training sessions to a speaker series. Here is a link to their NYC runners blog, here is a direct link to their event calendar for October. Nike also prints flyers that included information regarding training runs and running paths available in these various cities (check out the red card at the top of this listing and the flyer to the left of this paragraph).

These communities provide Nike with the ability to build stronger relationships with runners founded on a common passion for the sport. Nike is not only selling shoes to the participants of these communities, but rather helping them become better runners. They are selling a transformation rather than a product or experience.

These communities also enable Nike to better understand the needs, wants and attitudes of runners – insights that can be leveraged in the development of new products or marketing and relationship programs.

Nike’s Runner’s Stations
I came across a Nike Runner’s Station in Hudson River Park in Tribeca. This station, which is funded by Nike, provides runners with the opportunity to try Nike shoes and to get information regarding Nike’s Run NYC events (e.g. training runs, etc). Drinks and snacks are also sold at this station, with all proceeds going to the Hudson River Park.

The runner’s stations provide Nike with the opportunity to engage runners in their place of practice. Just the fact that Nike is present in this popular running spot gives them some level of credibility with this specific local community of runners. They have also done a good job at maximizing the value of their presence by providing runners with the opportunity to try out (as opposed to try on) Nike running shoes. The fact that Nike contributes all profits from the station to the Hudson River Park is another way that they show support for the local running community – essentially they are helping to support the local communities place of practice.

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