Nike Doesn’t Need Gaming Partners

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“All I do is play video games.”

Kevin Durant, a 2010 article

The growth of gaming as a cultural powerhouse hasn’t gone unnoticed.  

Nike’s gaming marketing portfolio is a perfect example: 

  • Exclusive League of Legends inspired footwear 
  • Branded jerseys for professional esports clubs 
  • A playable experience on Fortnite (Airphoria) 

Each of the above involved an endemic (native to the gaming industry) partner. Since partnerships are often key to effective gaming marketing for non-endemic brands.  

However, Nike is also positioned to speak to gaming audiences without gaming partners

So, the following proposes gaming apparel based on Nike’s United States of America (USA) Olympic team line. 

Where Nike could execute the same strategy for other countries across the globe.  

The goal is to demonstrate that effective gaming marketing does not require partnership with an endemic gaming company.  

Gaming is not esports

Nike has had tremendous success with sports marketing. So much so that esports (competitive video games) marketing seems like a layup. 

The reality is that many digital game experiences are not specifically competitive. The way almost all physical games (sports) are.  

That means competitive themes – finishing first, skill development, etc. – are not relevant to a large portion of gamers.  

For instance, many players are motivated to play video games to experience immersion (not competition) in a fictional world.  

A USA Gaming Team, likewise, does not have to compete. Nor does it have to consist of the most skilled players.  

Video games also don’t need to be in the Olympics for the USA Gaming Team to exist. 

Instead, the team can be about national belonging. Where everyone in the USA who enjoys video games can buy the merchandise and feel a part of their country’s community of gamers

That inclusive strategy is a better fit for brands like Nike. Since they already have broad awareness and a large customer base within markets like the USA.  

Meanwhile Nike can continue to tap into competitive video games without contradiction. 

Athletes are gamers

The growing crossover between gaming and traditional sports is no accident. It’s a generational shift. 

Case in point: Nike signature athletes Devin Booker and Kevin Durant have gone on record stating their passion for video games.  

In fact, both NBA superstars teamed up with Activision’s Call of Duty game title

Booker appeared in the game trailer. While Durant appeared as a playable character. 

Now, imagine Booker and Durant sporting Nike’s USA Gaming Team apparel. The same way they wear Nike’s USA Olympic Team gear. 

Gaming media outlets could easily pick up the news and run with it. The resulting commercial impact within the gaming community would be impressive. 

Now, imagine extending the same strategy to other signature Nike athletes outside the USA. Where superstars like Brazilian-born Neymar are also vocal gamers

A single social media post from any of those athletes easily reaches millions. 

Very few, if any, gaming partners can duplicate that type of media value.  

Brand extension wins

Nike has a long-standing track record as a sponsor of national and Olympic sports teams across the globe

Plus, the athletic brand has deep authority in design, innovation and manufacturing.  

Those two factors combined means Nike can leverage brand authority without an endemic partner. It also means a nationality-based gaming team is a solid brand extension strategy. 

Read more about brand extension strategies in gaming here

Not to mention, Nike’s mission is “to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”  

The mission clarifies that, “if you have a body, you are an athlete.” 

In other words, Nike doesn’t have to re-frame its brand promise for gaming audiences. Since it is relevant to all gamers, even those who may not consider themselves athletes. 

Most importantly, organized national gaming does not (yet) have a strong presence across the world. So, Nike isn’t overstepping existing federations, organizations, etc. 

In fact, Nike’s swoosh is the ultimate stamp of approval for its own gaming team

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