Nike Run Club: Grassroots marketing in action

14 Aug

I just joined the Nike Run Club last Saturday and have been completely taken by it.  It’s a free, it’s 90% female, offers awesome perks (raffles at each run, free gear, free food, the ability to earn a slot in the Nike Half Marathon and cool people)  and they don’t care what marathon you’re training for.  As a marketeer I know its all part of the massive Nike marketing machine to build brand loyalty and drive sales, but I am completely lapping it up. (Update: I get some great consumer insight via surveys)

Last night I found myself driving downtown in traffic to meet up for the Wednesday night run at Niketown, despite my disdain for Union Square, large retail establishments, running at night and traffic.  Why did I head down to bow at the feet of Nike?  There are some pretty smart things about their program:

  • Community: Nike just hooked me up with hundreds of like-minded running buddies which is great for such a solitary sport.  Not too mention how Nike has looped in local vendors to help support us and show a little love.
  • An increment of authenticity: The run club is mainly staffed by volunteers who enjoy the sport and are just happy to be out there, and whether it’s manufactured or not, the overall feeling and focus is on the joy of running and getting people through it.
  • Common purpose: Although individual goals differ (lose a little weight, do your first mara, have fun, meet girls — that’s a hint for all you single guys), we’re almost all women and we’re out there to run.  Last night’s run was a sight to see — a sea of 600 ponytails taking off downtown.
  • Girl Power: While I have seen other clothing and gear manufacturers focus on women (Lucy, See Jane Run and Title 9), no other shoe manufacturer that I know of is throwing this sort of effort behind women.  The actual Nike Marathon almost takes catering to women too far — men in tuxedos handing out Tiffany necklaces to finishers, a chocolate aid station and a pedi stop for instance! It’s definitely contrived and borderline insulting at times (I got no time for pedi’s — I got a mara to run!), but I can’t help but fall for it and it resonates with something in me. I love running too, and damn it, I have expendable income to spend and if you want it, earn it.  I’ve had enough of standing around in a bike shop getting no respect. Nike knows the value of my consumer power.
  • Stickiness and earned benefits: There are all sorts of ways to earn new perks based on your attendance at runs and visits to Nike retail partners.  We all received a punch card that can eventually be redeemed for a chance at the coveted Nike Half Marathon.  To be honest, I wouldn’t mind be treated to a little Ghiradelli choco mid-run 😉

I’m interested to see how this all pans out.  Almost all the ladies last night donned some sort of Nike clothing or accessory, but it was mainly Asics and Saucony running shoes out there.  I am sure their unethical reputation hasn’t helped this situation. I personally have worn Asics for 6 years straight based on the advice of a doctor and my hardcore running friends.  Most people I know are very loyal to one particular brand and only switch based on advice from “smart friends.”   But I am considering checking out a pair of Nike shoes for our next short run.  I swear all this comaderie and feel good stuff is getting to me!

For a commercial organization that hasn’t had the best ethical practices, I think their run club is really a great way to build good will, loyalty and drive merchandise sales.  I still question how much it will drive runners to switch to Nike shoes.

2 Responses to “Nike Run Club: Grassroots marketing in action”

  1. lucidlunatic August 18, 2008 at 2:06 am #

    I’m not sure how much success they’ll see in people switching to their shoes. Some of their spikes are acceptable, but as far as trainers go I have yet to find anything I like so much as Asics.

    How far does this program extend? Is this only in your area or is it all through the US? And how accepting are you ladies of male interlopers?

  2. Mary August 18, 2008 at 5:54 pm #

    Yes, men are totally welcome. There looks to be training groups all over the place: http://insidenikerunning.nike.com/category/city/. Good luck!

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