Nike’s Clever Neon-Yellow Volt Campaign: Ambush Marketing During Olympics

Many companies dished out major money to have their official 2012 London Olympic sponsorships this year. reports that among these Olympic backers are Visa, McDonalds, and Adidas- which reportedly paid $155 million dollars for their official sponsorships. Spending this much money, however, did not put them at the top of the marketing game during these Olympic games. This honor goes to Nike, who used a creative guerilla/ambush marketing plan for the Olympic games.

Nike, instead of talking about their products and spending tons of money on official sponsorships, found a way to actually integrate their products into the games themselves. Nike did this without spending too much money on advertising at all.

“Over 400 athletes are wearing the Volt Nike footwear at the Games,” said Nike spokesman Brian Strong. “The majority of those are in track and field but also in boxing and fencing.”

Nike says that among the 400 athletes wearing Volt footwear, 41 have medaled. This includes 43% of all the track and field medalists.

“Nike cleverly leveraged the combination of their recognizable trade dress and logo to get Olympic-sized brand identification without an Olympic-sized budget,” said Adam Hanft, CEO of New York-based Hanft Projects, a communications and marketing consultancy. “It’s exactly the kind of guerrilla product insertion that makes marketers smile and the (International Olympic Committee) nuts.”

The reason that this drives the International Olympic Committee nuts, is because they go through great lengths to keep non-Olympic advertisers from advertising if they are not official Games sponsors. They even ban athletes from tweeting about their personal sponsors. However, the IOC cannot control what the Olympians wear. They had no control over the athletes as they donned Nike’s neon-yellow shoes.

“The shoes were one of the first things I noticed during the Games,” said Leslie Smolan, co-founder of a design and branding firm in New York. Carbone Smolan Agency. “I thought Nike’s approach was absolutely brilliant. Nike managed to integrate themselves into the games — the best way to show your product, not just talk about it.”

These unique shoes were designed with the sole purpose of catching one’s eye. With this design, Nike didn’t even need their world famous swoosh to make it one of the most marketed designs out there.

“Of all the colors of the rainbow, the human eye and visual system is most sensitive to the yellow/green zone,” Strong said. “The power of this visual signal is capitalized on when the background is highly contrasting, which the London Olympic track is — reddish. The human eye has relatively low sensitivity to red vs. much higher sensitivity to Volt color.”

Nike’s promotion of the shoes skirts on the edge of Rule 40 of the Olympic charter. This rule “limits athletes competing in the Olympic Games from appearing in advertising during and shortly before the Olympic Games.” The rule is meant as a way to “prevent ambush marketing which might otherwise utilise athletes to create an association with the Games.”

Rule 40, however, does not effect what the athletes can wear while they are competing.

Nike found a loophole in the system and took advantage.


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