Run, Kent, Run – Why Nike+ is awesome (and free)

As mentioned in my earlier post, What Saying “Yes” Taught Me About Product Messaging, I am currently training for my first half marathon. I use the word “training” in its loosest sense, as you would have to go back to the 8th grade phys ed mile run for the last timed run I did over 400 meters (I registered for the Bolder Boulder once but was kidnapped at the last minute for a Vegas road trip. That’s right, kidnapped).

runshorts

In my amateur running state, I realized I could use some help getting into the whole 20+ miles a week thing. First things first, time to upgrade the gear. Fresh new kicks… check. iPhone running armband… check. New headphones… in the mail. Short shorts… well, might pass on those.

A couple weeks into training, I am happy with the equipment upgrades but the most useful tool has far and away been the free Nike+ Running app. The app has a great UI and a solid set of features, but the most impressive aspect is not that it tracks my run through GPS, or that Ellie Goulding or some Olympic athlete I have never heard of gives me a verbal pat-on-the-back each run, but that it is almost completely free of advertising.

nikeplus

The app does include a Shop section, but it is unobtrusive to the user experience, slipped into the bottom of the menu to remind the user they can buy new gear if they feel the need. Honestly, knowing it is a Nike product, the app would feel somewhat lacking if it didn’t have the shop.

Nike has a whole slew of apps that target different users (Nike Golf 360, Nike+ Basketball, etc), and have embraced Facebook and social media while moving away from traditional television and large media based advertising (read the Fortune article here that reviews this shift to Digital Marketing). While watching my Buffalo dismantle Oregon last night, I saw a handful of Under Armour commercials in the span of 30 minutes. Can you even remember the last time you saw a Nike commercial on TV?

I applaud Nike for embracing digital marketing (spending over $800M in non-traditional marketing in 2010) like few large corporations have, giving away a quality product that delivers value customers would be willing to pay for (and previously did for the Nike+ Sport Kit), staying true to their core business.

I usually cheer for underdogs, but cannot hate when a big company does something right, this digital marketing focus is a big + in my book (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Nike is in the business of making money, so why give these apps away for free?

Branding

Nike succeeds in creating a positive association with the Nike brand by offering a no-frills tool that the running community clearly was asking for (over 5 million users of this app and the Nike+ website that also displays your running data). For any serious runner, it is likely one of the few apps that an iPhone or Android user opens up 5+ times a week.

Data

For a company like Nike, being able to understand its market better than competitors is a huge advantage. This app allows Nike to understand the habits of casual runners along with people prepare for serious races, and they have massive data on the most traveled running paths and the different types of runners that they will reach their.

Connecting with Customers

Nike’s biggest market it the not the over-40 adults who have almost all given up on both wearing stylish shoes and keeping fit/ living an active lifestyle. It is young athletes. And the younger they can reach them the better, creating brand association with not only their current biggest customers (teenagers), as well as planting seeds in the minds of the future buyers.