6 Ways Nike Built a Strong Brand on Social Media
April 25, 2018 • 11 min read
Updated on October 10, 2019
From the iconic swoosh logo to the ‘Just Do It’ slogan which is now part of pop culture, Nike is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. The retail juggernaut has moved beyond the domain of selling sportswear to branding themselves as a lifestyle. It should come as no surprise that Nike takes the cake on social media as well.
Nike embraced digital before digital was even a thing. From football communities on social media to the Nike+ Run Club app, the brand has adapted to the digital age and has grown aggressively, connecting with consumers locally and globally.
About this report
This Nike social media report was put together using Unmetric Analyze. It listens to over 100,000 brands to help our clients create more engaging content, get more certainty around their social strategy and automate their reporting.
Overall Social Media Activity
With a total of 318 social media profiles catering to a multitude of products and geolocations, Nike is one of the most followed brands online. Nike has social media profiles on all major platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. The brand diversified their online presence by creating separate pages for its products catering to different target audiences.
The sportswear giant is a champion on social media with quite a few reigning statistics to their name. Nike Football with 44 million fans is one of the top ten most followed brand pages on Facebook, while the brand’s primary Instagram account is the most followed brand with 92 million followers!
We analyzed Nike’s primary social media profiles across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube for the period from January 01, 2017 to August 31, 2019. Here’s what we found out.
Nike’s social media strategy is a force to be reckoned with. Nike’s approach to social media is evolving—it now focuses more on ads than public content on Facebook. The brand has invested more in dark posts than public content in the last couple of years. It is also interesting to note that Nike has deleted a lot of its posts and videos on Facebook and YouTube from 2017-18.
Posts and videos on Nike’s controversial campaigns like the 2019 “Dream Crazy” campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick and the 2017 product launch campaign of Nike’s first-ever hijab sportswear called “Pro Hijab” were some of the many posts that Nike had removed from their social media accounts. Nevertheless, Nike’s Instagram presence has always been active with a ton of engaging content, so it comes as no surprise that Nike is one of the most followed brands on Instagram.
Nike has over 33 million followers on its primary Facebook page, gaining over 2 million new fans in 2017 alone! The brand published 62 posts in the time period and promoted more than 60% of them. In terms of content, Nike posted 43 videos and 15 photos. Videos were also the top-performing content for the brand. It is noteworthy that Nike has been focusing its Facebook strategy on videos even prior to the algorithm change in 2016.
Nike’s main page has been inactive on Facebook for quite some time now. If you head to their Facebook page, you can see that the brand made its last appearance in August 2018.
While there aren’t any definitive reasons for the brand’s radio silence on Facebook it is noteworthy to mention that Nike’s dark posts are active across many regions. The dark posts—mostly ads to get people to buy their products—come to a total of 15K posts, of which 62% is targeted at their U.S. audience and the remaining at their Asian, Australian, and European audiences.
Nike’s most engaging posts were part of two major campaigns they ran in 2017. Their ambitious “Breaking2” project brought a huge amount of social media attention for the brand. World-class marathon runners Eliud Kipchoge, Lelisa Desisa, and Zersenay Tadese attempted to run 26.219 miles in under two hours, a feat that has never been done before in the history of the sport. Regardless of the outcome, the ultimate winner was Nike as the athletes wore a customized version of Nike’s racing shoe for the event.
The chart above shows the engagement over time that the “Breaking2” campaign received. It was the most successful of the 6 campaigns that Nike ran during the time period. As part of the campaign, Nike posted 5 times on Facebook including a pre-event trailer. The brand live-streamed the event which garnered over 5.4 million views!
Nike launched the ‘Equality’ campaign during Black History Month in February 2017. The highlight of the campaign was a 90-second video-spot featuring Serena Williams and LeBron James with a voiceover by actor Michael B Jordan. The campaign which debuted at a time following the announcement of Trump’s immigration ban garnered a lot of limelight.
Quality Over Quantity
Nike does not follow a consistent pattern in posting. Instead, the posting frequency is topical, with Nike posting frequently during their campaigns or around international sporting events featuring their brand ambassadors. In order to understand Nike’s low posting frequency, we delved a bit deeper. It is interesting to note that from 836 posts in 2012, the brand has seen a steep decline in content being posted to Facebook over the years, with the brand posting a meager 28 times in 2015. Nike posted just four times a month on average in 2017 and gradually stopped posting after August 2018
Nike undoubtedly has the biggest names in sports as their spokespersons. From Roger Federer, LeBron James and Michael Jordan to Cristiano Ronaldo to name a few, the who’s who of sports are associated with Nike. By personifying the brand through these sporting legends and putting their faces ahead of the brand or their product, Nike has earned itself a special place in the sporting world.
Go Beyond the Product
Storytelling as a marketing strategy has proved to be extremely effective for brands. Instead of the product being the centerpiece, Nike’s content does the talking in the form of storytelling. The brand uses photos and videos to effectively communicate its core values.
Nike added more than 1 million new followers during the time period, bringing its total follower count to 7.9 million. The brand tweeted over 18.5K times, i.e. 19 tweets per day (including replies and retweets) on average.
Nike’s most engaging tweet in the time period was this 1-minute video on the United States women’s national soccer team winning the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup which garnered more than 22.4 million views.
This team wins. Everyone wins.
— Nike (@Nike) July 7, 2019
Nike’s partnerships with high profile celebrities are reflected in the mentions they receive on Twitter. Nike’s top 10 influencer mentions include the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr and Kevin Hart who also are among the top 50 most-followed accounts on Twitter.
— Neymar Jr (@neymarjr) June 7, 2017
In 2017, Nike took a concerted effort for the ‘Breaking2’ campaign on Twitter as well. In order to drive traffic, the brand engaged in conversations with their followers. From the chart below, it is evident that the reply rate peaked from May 4 – May 6 during the campaign. Nike also ran 17 ads on Twitter for the event, some of them targeted to specific geographies.
The campaign was such a success that even their rival, Adidas couldn’t resist it!
Congratulations @EliudKipchoge on such a courageous run.
— adidas Running (@adidasrunning) May 6, 2017
In 2018, Nike launched the “Dream Crazy” campaign which had a series of ads featuring former NFL player Colin Kaepernick and sports stars Serena Williams and LeBron James to name a few. The campaign highlighted the athletes who defied all expectations and hurdles to make their dreams a reality.
— Nike (@Nike) August 25, 2018
Nike declared 2019 its year for women. To kickstart the year, the brand launched the “Dream Crazier” campaign—an extension of the 2018 “Dream Crazy” campaign—which performed phenomenally across all their social media profiles (excluding Facebook). The campaign shed light on women empowerment and the challenges women athletes face in their career and was well-received by spectators across the world.
— Nike (@Nike) July 13, 2019
Nike uses Twitter prominently to address customer queries with 96.8% of the brand’s tweets being replies. On average, Nike replied in 10 hrs. Brand mentions peak from 11 AM to 2 PM, while Nike replies the most from 12 AM to 1 PM. The brand replied the most on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Nike also has a separate Twitter handle solely dedicated for customer service, @NikeSupport. The average reply time (ART) of @NikeSupport is 6 hours
The brand replied from 11 AM to 1 PM, with the reply rate peaking at 12 PM. They provided customer support on all days of the week, responding the fastest on Saturdays and Sundays with an ART of less than 3 hours.
That’s not what we like to hear, Don. What device, operating system and version of the app are you using? Mind sending over a screenshot of what you’re experiencing?
— Nike Support (@NikeSupport) February 22, 2018
Nike also promptly responds to customer queries directed at other Nike handles.
Mind if we step in? Can you tell us what specific watchOS and version of the NRC app you’re using?
— Nike Support (@NikeSupport) December 8, 2017
Nike has over 1 million subscribers, adding 561K new subscribers in the analyzed time period. It is interesting to note that in comparison to their other social media profiles, Nike posted more frequently on YouTube with the brand uploading 399 videos.
Nike’s YouTube strategy is primarily focused on putting their products on center stage. Behind-the-scene-videos detailing product stories and their making form a major portion of their video marketing on YouTube.
Nike is also a pro at curating videos that give you goosebumps! The video below featuring women athletes and sports personalities at crucial moments of their game is the most-viewed content for Nike in the time period with more than 10 million views!
Campaigns also form a major part of Nike’s YouTube strategy. In 2017, Nike promoted ‘Breaking2’ on YouTube as well. They released 8 short videos of less than 2 minutes showcasing behind-the-scene preparations of the event.
Nike’s “Dream Crazier” campaign was well-received on its YouTube channel as well. The brand’s YouTube channel has over 30 videos under this campaign and the one below has over 5 million views!
By benchmarking Nike’s YouTube stream against its biggest competitor Adidas, we find that Nike uploaded more videos than Adidas (147). Their videos also gained better engagement and positive response in terms of likes and comments.
Nike holds the unparalleled golden standard on Instagram. With an astonishing 92 million followers, Nike is the second most followed brand on Instagram. The sports giant is also the 19th most popular account on Instagram, the only brand other than Instagram and National Geographic to make it to the top 20 list.
In the analyzed time period, the brand saw a 34.8 % growth in followers, adding more than 23 million new fans. Nike uploaded 182 posts during the time period, of which 62% were videos. The chart below shows the posting frequency of the brand suggesting that Nike does not have a consistent pattern in posting.
On Instagram, Nike received the highest engagement on its photos, which consisted of less than 30% of its published content. The brand received the highest engagement between 5 PM and 6 PM Eastern Time, while posting frequency peaked at 12 PM. Sunday was the most engaging day for the brand as they published more content on that day.
The video below received the highest engagement with 19 million views!
View this post on Instagram
Who doesn’t want to learn from their hero? Nike celebrates their influencers and showcases them as inspirations. Their top posts featured the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and artists like Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott, and Kevin Hart.
Nike used its brand hashtags on posts. Their most used hashtag is #justdoit (60%) followed by #nike (9%). They also created event hashtags like #Breaking2 for their campaign and #airmaxday for their product launch.
Nike uses Instagram’s highly visual platform to introduce their latest products. Videos and teasers are released to boost product launches.
Social Media Crisis
Nike had a relatively peaceful year in terms of PR disasters that most brands find themselves in. But, the brand came under social media ire when Nike unveiled its first hijab sportswear called ‘Pro Hijab’ for International Women’s Day in March. The move was met with mixed reactions with many praising it while many dismissed it.
View this post on Instagram
“We live in a time where everything should be possible, but you have to fight for change.” – @zeina.boxer ⠀ German boxer Zeina Nassar didn’t start out looking to change the rules, but when she saw that women like her weren’t allowed to wear hijabs while competing, she made it her mission to do exactly that. Now, she’s fighting to change the rules internationally, so all women can experience the power of sport. See Zeina’s full story on @nike IGTV #justdoit
Many claimed that hijab normalizes the oppression of women and threatened to boycott Nike as a result. The brand remained tight-lipped on social media.
Women in the west DO NOT WANT TO WEAR HIJABS! #BoycottNike
— Casey Muldoon (@Casey_Muldoon) March 10, 2017
In 2018, an ad featuring Colin Kaepernick as part of Nike’s “Dream Crazy” campaign received a lot of flak on social media. The ad narrated by Colin Kaepernick stated “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything,”–a reference to his decision to take a knee during the national anthem at NFL games which put his career at risk–didn’t bode well with a lot of fans and critics. Nike’s decision to include Kaepernick in their campaign was a move against the alleged police brutality and racial inequality in America.
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) September 3, 2018
Nevertheless, this campaign received an equal amount of positive social media coverage and support from their fans. In 2019, this ad won Nike their first Outstanding Commercial Emmy Award in 17 years.
More than a brand
Nike’s social media makes one want to hit the gym! Nike is all about its brand identity on social – visually stunning content that showcases the Nike lifestyle. Instead of just selling the product, Nike takes a holistic approach to center their brand identity around the concept of fitness and a healthy lifestyle.
What’s in the numbers
Nike does not believe in crowding their social media profile with posts. They focus on creating quality content and promoting it whenever they post, rather than posting frequently.
Seeing is believing
Nike focuses on telling stories that resonate with their consumers’ aspirations, goals, lifestyles and dreams. Posts and stories that celebrate positivity and empowerment is an effective exercise in emotional branding for Nike.
Campaigns rule the roost
Nike leaves no stone unturned for promoting their campaigns on social media. The brand curated different strategies for the different social channels and successfully utilized their offline campaigns to create the much needed hype.
Keep your customers close
With their friendly and approachable attitude to customers, Nike does not let down their fans. Their eagerness to streamline all the discussions and complaints to their dedicated customer service channel showcases the importance the brand places on their fans.
The big names
Much of Nike’s success can be attributed to its sponsorship and deals with the greatest names in professional sports. Nike capitalizes on their high-profile influencers on social media as well. Their diverse set of influencers across different sports acts as a credible and trustworthy voice for the brand.
Nike’s social media strategy and its effectiveness can be seen in the sheer number of followers the brand has. There’s something every brand can learn from Nike and emulate.
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