Nike makes the most out of branded storytelling with ‘Breaking2’ campaign

Nike, as a brand, has always been abuzz with amazing campaigns. It starts with their slogan “Just Do It”. Their iconic swoosh has represented many athletes and has pushed many limits. Their slogan represents hope. It represents possibility. And most of all, it represents the hard work and optimism that athletes have mustered for years.

In the marketing side of things, Nike has lived up to what they have been preaching. They have fought for equality in one campaign, and their latest ‘Just Do It’ campaign just this July contained candid messages that inspired people to overcome the inner turmoil that’s hindering them from achieving their goals. They have also taken an initiative to marry sport and technology with their progressive app.

Their latest campaign underscores its brand principles.

Their newest campaign Breaking2, which also explored a partnership between National Geographic, is as ambitious as Nike’s slogan goes. It involves a mixed media campaign that ended with a full documentary-type feature film.

The film revolved around the lives of three marathon runners who were set to break the two-hour marathon record. With the campaign, they released the ZoomX VaporFly Elite, which was engineered to do exactly what the campaign intended – break barriers and rewrite history.

The campaign followed three elite marathon runners in their home countries – Eliud Kipchoge from Kenya, Lelisa Desisa from Ethiopia, and Zersenay Tadese from Eritrea.

What started as a build-up video became an hour-long documentary that eventually took two years to finish. It documented the journey of the athletes from their training in their respective countries, to their journey to the United States, where they were tested and trained by scientists, up to the actual race itself which was held in Italy.

What’s interesting about this campaign is that it was not meant to sell a shoe. Nike is not selling the ZoomX VaporFly Elite to the public, stating that it was designed specifically to run a two-hour marathon, which, let’s face it, isn’t the average sneaker-head’s hobby.

They took “Just Do It” to a whole new level.

Instead, what it sold were the brand’s integrity and impeccable storytelling. It unifies their slogan by deferring from the direction that a lot of sportswear brands are now tackling. That is — to take advantage of the sneaker-head street fashion culture by getting celebrities to be their brand ambassadors.

With this campaign, Nike underscores the core of the brand’s purpose – which is ultimately to create footwear that will help athletes in their performance. Although the runners didn’t actually break the record (Kipchoge almost did by 25 seconds), Nike’s name can now be linked to quite a historical moment in the sport.

“These are characters that are bigger than life, so we try to humanize these characters. That gives the film more appeal beyond fans of the sport,” said Chris Uettwiller, CEO and executive producer at Dirty Robber, the production company that shot the film.

They’d learned how to do this from filming Muse, a 2015 documentary about Kobe Bryant’s return to basketball. “How do people get attached to running? My wife doesn’t watch basketball, but she watched the Kobe Bryant movie because it wasn’t about basketball. These guys are runners, but it’s also about what they’ve achieved.”

The brand is veering away from its competitors’ direction.

Uettwiller’s sentiments confirm what marketers have all observed in the recent years – that advertising, as we know it, is dead, and that all successful campaigns nowadays have one not-so-secret ingredient – amazing storytelling.

Despite this, however, the team knew that the audience’s attention span might flail all throughout the duration of the live stream, so they created interstitials, which can all be shared as a short film.

“These new and exciting ways to reach audiences, whether that’s short content, digital, a live event, a feature-length documentary, can be super successful,” said Uettwiller. “We got to do all of the things we like to do in one project.”

Another important thing to note about this campaign is the unlikely partnership between Nike, a sportswear brand, and National Geographic, a non-sports-focused media company.

This peculiar pairing, along with their respectively strong marketing tactics, proved to be a success. Nearly 20 million viewers were generated, while two trillion social impressions were garnered from the campaign as a whole.



Dirty Robber