I'm a bit of a Twitter-holic. The micro-blogging platform appeals to me in a very personal way. Content delivery is quick, and the folks I follow are a good mix of experts in the different arenas I'm interested in. One of those topics? Fütbol (I try to use the umlaut wherever possible). I know - this isn't really a place for you to come and get your sports updates, but I think Nike executed a textbook social media campaign that is worth highlighting. Just a warning, I'll get into quite a bit of background related to the issues at play, but I hope I communicate it in an approachable way.
Last week, the Nike Soccer team built a lot of buzz over the #RedAllOver campaign through their Twitter account. The campaign coincided with two major events:
USA v Argentina - This international friendly took place in New Meadowlands Stadium (home of the Jets and Giants) in New Jersey this past Saturday. If you don't already know, Argentina's national team is home to the sport's most electric player right now, Lionel Messi, and it was a chance for the US to test themselves against one of the best squads in the world (and get Messi, also a Nike athlete, some exposure in the growing US soccer market). Side note: after looking completely out of sorts and falling behind in the first half, the US amazingly pulled off a 1-1 draw with Argentina.
USA's new kit - Nike designed a completely new kit for the US to unveil against Argentina. The most obvious part of the new kit? An all new red jersey (hence Nike's #RedAllOver campaign). The US has traditionally had two kits: white (for home games) and blue (for away games). Nike is pitching the new red kit as being crowd-driven by requests through social media.
Here's where the Nike social media team kicked it into overdrive and in the matter of a week created a behemoth of a social media campaign. It all started a week ago when the new kit was hinted at via Twitter:
A new #USMNT kit inspired by supporters. A new team motto. Written by you. Tweet & tag yours with #RedAllOver http://go.nike.com/RedAllOver"
They announced the new shirt (without unveiling it yet - brilliant) and engaged followers in a crowdsourcing project - write the motto that would be embroidered on the shirt for the Argentina match.
Quick History Lesson
This is where we have to spend a minute or two exploring some perceptions of the US soccer team before we can get to the execution of the campaign itself. The brilliance of Nike's idea came in capitalizing on a deep-seated "soul" issue that the US soccer team has faced for years.
In short, the perception is that the US' team doesn't have much soul. Soccer is a second class citizen in the world of US sports (even though youth soccer continues to be a staple). Here's a quick example: soccer crazy countries have long had popular monikers for their national squads: France (Les Bleus), Brazil (A Seleçào), England (Three Lions).
Alternatively, the US' team name is the U.S. Men's National Team. Over the years, fans have tried to punch things up. "Yanks" is a pretty popular name that gets tossed around, as is "Stars and Stripes." The problem is none of these have stuck, probably because they don't feel like anything more than a skin-deep attempt at patriotism.
However, if you have watched the US play in the past several years, you know the "no soul" knock is completely unfounded. It's a fiery team with grit that came this close to knocking off mighty Brazil in the Confederations Cup finals in 2009. Last year's World Cup run in South Africa was marked by explosive plays, passionate leadership and last second comebacks that had fans believing that the gap between US soccer and the rest of the world was closing.
The Brilliance of #RedAllOver
Ok... back to the #RedAllOver campaign - Nike's call to write a motto that would become a semi-official slogan of the team was not simply a cool giveaway but a chance for fans to inject passion and heart into a team that could benefit from a more recognizable identity. Nike leveraged the mechanics of Twitter by mandating that all motto submissions be sent with the hashtag #RedAllOver. Within hours, the campaign was a trending topic. It's important to note that a topic trends much faster if it is focused around a particular hashtag (and if you have the follower base that Nike has!).
In order to maintain the momentum of the campaign, Nike scheduled events leading up to the match with Argentina. They setup a #RedAllOver photo booth in Times Square where supporters could have their picture taken with some US soccer swag and easily tweet the photos (with the #RedAllOver hashtag, of course). Several days after the initial announcement, the jersey itself was actually revealed (by the way, Nike has some of the best product photos of any retailer I've seen), and on the day before the match, Nike teamed up with US Soccer and announced via Twitter that they were giving away one of the new red jerseys to the first person who could find Jay DeMerit (Defender) in Times Square. This led to a flurry of comical tweets from folks either looking for DeMerit or who wanted buddies in New York to find him for them. Of course, every single one of these tweets was tagged with #RedAllOver. The end result was a campaign that trended consistently over the course of a week - a veritable social media miracle.
Over the course of a week, Nike executed a flawless social media campaign that culminated in the unveiling of the official motto for the game: INDIVISIBLE. It was a brilliant selection because it touches on the patriotism that is constantly being associated with the team, but more than that, it captures the spirit of the team itself. They may not be the they most talented, but they play with a sense of purpose and camaraderie that lets them compete at the highest level.
I think a lot of times we get caught in the mindset of, well of course they did a good job, it's Nike (or Apple or whoever). The truth is good marketing is good marketing, and while we may not be able to put together a campaign on the scale of #RedAllOver, we can certainly learn some good pointers from it.
So... what can we take away from #RedAllOver about how to run our own successful social media campaign?
- Address a felt need of your community - Nike created a massive revenue stream by producing a jersey that fans felt needed to exist.
- Engage your community in a conversation - Nike asked its community to develop the motto as part of the product they would be purchasing. The engagement was built around an area that's perceived as a weakness of the team (its "soul"), so fans quickly got on board. In addition, it gave real-time feedback to fans who were making submissions.
- Leverage the mechanics of Twitter - Nike provided a central point of focus for the campaign through the use of the #RedAllOver hashtag. Smaller organizations can benefit from hashtags as well because anytime one of your followers uses the hashtag, his or her followers become exposed to your campaign as well.
- Sustain your efforts - Nike planned out its communication schedule throughout the week, so it did not depend on a single announcement to carry the campaign through the week. It created a few pieces of media that trickled out through the week (product photos and the above video) to maintain interest as well.
- Undersell your product/Service - Nike provided links to find the jerseys online and in person, but only once or twice did they do it without being asked. The point is that the whole campaign is built around the excitement and vibe of the new shirt, if Nike had posted links every hour or two about where to buy the new shirt, it would have killed the momentum that the campaign was gaining. I'm not going to buy a product because someone tells me to every few hours. I'm going to buy a product that I'm excited about. That's what the #RedAllOver campaign was all about.
- Plan your campaign - This probably goes without saying, but I'll just reiterate it as the last point. It's all well and good to wing it with social media, but if you want to have a truly successful presence that creates momentum for your business, it's worth putting some time and effort into planning your communication. Just ask Nike.