Digital & Social Media

Sweat Equals Socks — Or a Hat

Sweat Equals Socks — Or a Hat
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Campaign: Sportswear giant Nike has installed a vending machine in New York City stocked full of sportswear, such as socks, T-shirts and hats — and it’s giving all of it away for free. Well, sort of.

In order to get their sweaty palms on the goodies, people need to plug in one of Nike’s FuelBand exercise trackers and swap hard-earned virtual currency — in this case, Nike fuel points for exercise that the buyer has engaged in that day — for the branded swag. That the machine only accepts daily Nike Fuel points from that same day (rather than the total number accumulated) means that people need to get in a little exercise before being able to pick a prize.

Hints about the vending machine’s mystery location were given via the brand’s social channels, such as Twitter and Instagram. Though it has only popped up in in the city for one day so far, it’s rumored to be making other appearances soon.

The campaign was created with Huge, Portland.

Contagious, FleishmanHillard’s Dallaskidd Weigh In

Contagious: It’s not the first time that Contagious has spotted a vending machine being used in an unusual way. The use of vending machines to deliver not just tasty treats, but also brand experiences transforms the curbside boxes from a convenient retail outlet into a branding channel. By switching out sweets with sports swag, Nike has created an especially useful way for the format to be used, creating a powerful lifestyle statement as well as an interesting piece of ambient media. And let’s not forget that the limited-time pop-up is prime fodder for Instagram addicts, playing into the trend for visual culture and creating a piece of advertising destined to be shared.

In the saturated fitness apps and tracking devices sector, Nike is leveraging its substantial product strength to stand out from the plethora of smaller players. This machine gives a clear benefit to picking Nike’s apps above the competition, and demonstrates the brand starting to tie its broader fitness initiatives directly into its products. It’s a smart sampling tactic, allowing Nike to distribute less-famous lines to the masses in way that feels far more exclusive than just handing them out on a street corner.

One of the problems with Nike’s creation of NikeFuel, its branded currency, is that it’s essentially just an arbitrary number – no matter how shiny the wearable device that collects it. It makes it far more difficult to derive meaning or value than from more commonplace sporting metrics like miles or calories, and runs the risk of being utterly useless.

It’s an interesting dilemma for the swathe of new value systems that brands, crypto-currencies and peer-to-peer networks are creating. Though there are more measures of value than ever before, these new metrics are only truly valuable if there’s a tangible benefit for the collector. The vending machine does an interesting job of starting to give genuine purpose to Nike’s points. Rolling out ideas such as this on a bigger scale is one way to ensure that users have a real incentive to keep collecting.

Sean Dallaskidd: The chief problem with the vending machine tactic is that it’s fleeting—a little like a Snapchat message. While you can certainly achieve a certain amount of surprise and delight by placing a “mysterious” vending machine that gives away free swag on a street corner, that moment comes and goes in an instant. Will it make a lasting impression in a day, or even in a week?

Where this program wins is in the application of the brand proposition. First and foremost, Nike separates itself from the endless stream of wearable tech companies by reaffirming the depth and breadth of its offerings and commitment to fitness and health — successfully reiterating that Nike is about a branded lifestyle not just branded product.

Second, there is an air of exclusivity about the campaign—you have to own a Nike FuelBand exercise tracker and be a card-carrying member of the church of Nike in order to participate. To be honest, this may represent a bit of a gamble as it immediately limits participation—as does the requirement that you exercise that day.

Yet, in a way, it is this very willingness to take the risk that may be the best part of the campaign and lives up to the brand messages of just do it and If you have a body, you are an athlete. That language has always put the onus on the consumer to pick up the sneakers or t-shirt and exercise. Nike’s invitation is open to everyone but only those who follow it through can be members of the club—which for many will be an enticement.

This vending machine tactic, as simple as it may seem on the surface, has been perfectly executed to reflect that Nike challenge. In one fell swoosh, they have reaffirmed to Nike loyalists a reason to believe in the brand and for those outside of the brand’s circle, offered fuel to join.

Nike Fuelband vending machine

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About the author

This article was syndicated from Contagious Feed, an indispensable resource to the marketing communications industry focusing on competitive intelligence, best practices, new technology and consumer behavior. In addition to the flagship quarterly publication, app and Feed, Contagious has developed a consultancy and a series of world-class conferences, including its annual Most Contagious event.

Sean Dallaskidd provides expertise in developing creative solutions for clients from diverse industries. His experience includes work in advertising, publication design and interactive, as well as developing print, packaging, video and front-end apps. Among his previous roles, Dallaskidd worked for Discovery Communications, developing campaigns for Investigation Discovery, and contributed to other networks such as Velocity and the Military Channel.