Nike’ tryst with technology(ies) Part – I

Nike's battle with counterfeits

Nike is known for its innovative and inspiring advertising campaigns. The company has a long history of using cutting-edge technology and storytelling to create ads that resonate with its target audience.

Here are a few examples of innovative ads run by Nike:

  • “Just Do It” campaign: In 1988, Nike launched its “Just Do It” campaign, which quickly became one of the most iconic advertising campaigns of all time. The campaign featured a diverse range of athletes and everyday people pushing themselves to their limits. The “Just Do It” slogan is simple yet powerful, and it has inspired millions of people around the world to pursue their goals.
  • “Find Your Greatness” campaign: In 2012, Nike launched its “Find Your Greatness” campaign. The campaign featured a variety of athletes and celebrities talking about their own journeys to greatness. The campaign was designed to inspire people to find their own greatness and to never give up on their dreams.
  • “Dream Crazy” campaign: In 2018, Nike launched its “Dream Crazy” campaign, which featured former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The campaign was controversial, but it also sparked a conversation about race and social justice. The “Dream Crazy” campaign is a reminder that Nike is not afraid to take risks and to stand up for what it believes in.
  • “Play New” campaign: In 2021, Nike launched its “Play New” campaign. The campaign is designed to encourage people to try new things and to step outside of their comfort zones. The “Play New” campaign features a variety of athletes and everyday people trying new sports and activities. The campaign is a reminder that it’s never too late to learn something new or to try something different.

In addition to these campaigns, Nike has also run a number of innovative ads that have used cutting-edge technology. For example, in 2019, Nike released an ad featuring Cristiano Ronaldo that was created using artificial intelligence. The ad was so realistic that many people thought it was real footage of Ronaldo.

Nike is also known for its use of social media to connect with its target audience. The company has a strong presence on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, where it regularly shares engaging content. Nike also uses social media to promote its products and campaigns, and to run contests and giveaways.

Overall, Nike is one of the most innovative advertisers in the world. The company is constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible with advertising. Nike’s ads are not only entertaining and engaging, but they also inspire people to be their best selves.

The innovative marketing campaigns coupled with use of the latest tools & technologies has made Nike a global leader in athletic footwear and clothing while maintaining its lead against competitors.

Leadership challenges

Success breeds competition. While there is good competition, there also exists bad competition – counterfeits. The marketing campaigns had increased brand awareness and increased demand for Nike brands which has been leveraged by counterfeiters to their advantage.

  • In 2018, Homeland Security Investigations special agents busted a criminal ring in New York that was producing counterfeit Nike Air Jordans. The gang had stashed over 380,000 counterfeits valued at over $70 million in 42 crates.
  • In 2019, Nike sued a Chinese company for selling counterfeit Nike products on Amazon. The company was awarded $150 million in damages.
  • In 2020, Nike sued a number of websites for selling counterfeit Nike products. The company also filed a complaint with the U.S. Trade Representative, alleging that China was not doing enough to crack down on counterfeiting.
  • In 2021, Nike sued StockX, a popular sneaker reseller, for selling counterfeit Nike products. The lawsuit was settled out of court.

Counterfeiters are the worst competitors for any brand as they leverage the original brand’s identity, they are widespread and unknown with no market statistics to understand the leverage that counterfeiters have. There are only occasional and accidental discoveries which can only be indicative and not an absolute measure of the size of the problem.

Authenticity and authentication

In the 1990s, Nike adopted holographics tags on its products. Holograms were difficult and expensive to make in the 90’s which made it a safe measure against counterfeiting. Of course any solution which relies purely on a repetitive process is bound to get affordable over a period of time. This is like printing – in the 1st decade of the 21st century, very few homes had printers. This changed completely from 2015 onwards when most homes have a printer.

The same happened with holograms. They became cheaper to replicate (design) and manufacture globally. Holographic tags were no longer keeping Nike products safe against the threat of counterfeiting.

A step towards digital supply chain

Nike experienced that their original holograms were being duplicated en-mass. Considering holograms were purely visual and provided no way of storing the information digitally unless of course someone made a manual entry.Their goal now was to not only adopt something more secure but also digitally trackable.

Nike started using RFID (radio frequency identification) on each product across the supply chain. RFID provided easy scanning even for inventory tracking, say in a warehouse setting. In the early 2000s, RFID was prohibitively expensive and could only be deployed with only a selection of (expensive) products.

RFID helped in better inventory management (a positive side effect) while being mildly successful at arresting counterfeiting. Mildly because RFID requires a scanner which was (and still is) available only at select places like warehouses and retail stores. This meant that at most point-of-sale there were no scanners available to authenticate the originality of product through scan of RFID tag.

RFIDs also went through the same availability phase like hologram leading to extreme low cost. Most could simply order RFID from a manufacturer in China through Alibaba and similar ecommerce platforms. In 2018, Homeland Security Investigations special agents busted a criminal ring in New York that was producing counterfeit Nike Air Jordans. The gang had stashed over 380,000 counterfeits valued at over $70 million in 42 crates.

It was time for Nike to move to something new. Stay tuned for our next blog where we dive deep into other cutting-edge anti-counterfeit technologies embraced by Nike. 

You may also like these