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August 20, 2008


One Face in a Billion

by deirdrewalsh

This Nike advertisment, which features the Chinese track star Liu Xiang, appeared in yesterday’s China Daily newspaper.  According to CNC, Nike quickly changed its ad campaign after Xiang pulled out of the 110-meter hurdles in Beijing on Monday and disappointed millions of fans expecting him to defend his Olympic title on home territory.

The ad stated, “Love the glory. Love the pain. Love sport even when it breaks your heart. Just do it.”

Track and field runs in my family.  Both of my parents were professional runners and my younger brother was a nationally-ranked collegiate decathlete and captain of the track team at Rice University.  Although it’s hard to tell from my pudgy, I admire the great talent and legacy behind this sport.  Almost as equally do I now admire Nike for it’s ability to honor an athlete that brought tears to his fans eyes due to injury not gold medals.  As a marketer, I’m even more impressed by the quick turnaround time of this print piece.

At National Instruments, we often talk about the power of our internal agency model aka our marketing machine.  By doing everything from media relations to corporate design in-house, we are able to react quickly to changes in the market, the world we live in, or even product release dates (oh yes, sometimes products slip 😉 ).  I’m glad to see a major media player like Nike acting nimbly to the real-world in a classy way.  They could have created a YouTube video or over-produced a 30sec TV spot; but instead, much like Xiang stands out among the millions of Chinese citizens, this print piece is above most others.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mark Walsh
    Aug 20 2008

    You’re amazing sweet pea! Love you!!!

  2. jennhb
    Aug 20 2008

    I couldn’t agree with you more. What a great way for Nike to maximize their relationship with Liu Xiang and tap into what the country is feeling, while still honoring the athlete. They could easily have dropped him (as a non-medal winner) and plugged in some of their “winners” instead.

    When we were in China a few months ago, we learned about Liu Xiang as his larger-than-life billboards were alongside Yao Ming, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. I was heart-broken for him, along with some of our athletes who struggled like Lolo Jones and Sanya Richards (although she still medalled.) I hope our marketing machine is as nimble and sophisticated.

  3. Scooby
    Aug 20 2008

    Even though Nike is in business to make a buck, it shows how well they know the Chinese market. Liu is a rock star there and one bad day won’t change that.

    Did you see the blur in the poster? Its Usain Bolt running the 200.

  4. Aug 20 2008

    Great article, Deirdre! Very timely and insightful. Now, I’m going to go watch some TV and get my nightly dose of the Olympics 🙂

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