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Marketing Genius By Nike To Beat Adidas

The brand that we are going to talk about today, is a brand that has inspired millions of youths like you and me around the world to achieve greatness in the field and in life.

Nike is a brand that has inspired great leaders like Steve Jobs to come up with one of the greatest marketing strategies in the history of marketing called the 'Think Different' campaign. In 1996, Apple underwent a huge financial crisis and was on the verge of shutting down. This is when Steve Jobs was called back to the company. As he took over Apple, within a span of 2 years, in 1998, he launched the original iMac 3G. By the end of the year, the iMac 3G had become the USA's highest-selling personal computer and the next couple of decades was just about being a trillion-dollar company now. The regrowth of this significant company called Apple was all inspired by brilliant marketing campaigns by Nike during that era.

Let's talk about one such case where Nike showed their greatness in Marketing.

First ever iMac 3G from apple
iMac 3G - 1998

2012 Summer Olympics - London

The 2012 Summer Olympics was held in London (U.K) where Nike displayed a marketing masterclass allowing them to thrive over their arch-rivals Adidas.

Knowing that the event was held in London and evaluating the humongous profits that could be pumped from this event, various companies across the world went into a bidding war to become the title sponsor of the Olympic event.

Adidas - The bidding war

In this bidding war between significant companies across the world, Adidas won the bid to be the title sponsor of the Olympics beating Nike. Adidas paid $150m to become the title sponsors. Nike just lost an opportunity to mint money to their arch-rivals - Adidas.

Why are companies ready to pay such a significant amount of money just to be the title sponsors?

The answer to this is very simple - PROFITS, but let's break this down and understand it better with an example of the IPL (Indian Premier League). Vivo India had bagged the IPL title sponsorship rights for the 2018 IPL for Rs 2199 crore (EU 270m). This gets us wondering as to how paying such a huge amount of money for a 2 month long event make sense?

As it turns out, the next 2 years after winning the title sponsorship for the IPL, Vivo saw a staggering growth in its sales. In Q1 (quarter 1) of 2018, just before the IPL started Vivo was shipping around 2.1 million units but 1 year later, after the IPL happened - In Q1 (quarter 1) of 2019 Vivo shipped around 4.5 million units showing a growth of over 100% in the worlds second-largest mobile market (India)

This is the reason why getting title sponsorship of huge sporting events is a minting investment for companies. This is also the reason why the London Olympics was a golden opportunity for Adidas to get way ahead of their competitors.

What rules did the Olympic committee come up with to protect the title sponsor Adidas?

Brands that were not official sponsors were forbidden from featuring any of the Olympians in their ad campaigns, they were prohibited from mentioning 'London Games' or even using an image containing the Olympic rings. 'London 2012', 'Summer 2012', 'Medals 2012', 'Games 2012', were some of the generic names that Nike was disallowed to use anywhere in their campaign. Also, the Olympic organising committee members were forbidden from wearing T-shirts from unofficial sponsors. The athletes were prohibited from taking part in advertising campaigns with unofficial brands during the games. The punishment for breaking these rules was said to be very harsh, even stripping of medals won during the games.

What was the position of Nike vs Adidas towards the end of the games?

Towards the end of the Olympic games, while Adidas had around 9000 tweets associated with the Olympics, Nike had around 16,000 Tweets associated with the Olympics. During this entire period of the games Adidas added around 12,000 followers to their social media handle while Nike added around 57,000 followers to their social media handle. A survey was conducted in the U.S where random people were asked - Who was the title sponsor of the Olympics, and surprisingly 21% of people identified Adidas to be the title sponsor while 37% of the people believed Nike to be the title sponsor of the Olympics.

Online Mentions


Facebook Growth

Youtube Views

% Americans Identifying brand as the title sponsor











How did Nike surpass Adidas without paying $150m and without being the Title sponsor of the Olympics?

Without being the title sponsor of the Olympics and also without spending $150m and having to follow stringent rules set up by the Olympic committee from preventing un-official brands to associate themselves with the Olympics, Nike's strategy used during the Olympics went on to be on of the greatest marketing strategies of all time.

Nike found 3 loopholes in the rules set by the Olympic committee

  1. Regardless of who the title sponsor was, the athletes were free to choose whichever shoes they wanted during the even. Nike hired 400 Olympians to wear the Nike shoes that were given to them during the event. Nike chose yellow-green (fluorescent) coloured shoes named volt specifically designed to be in perfect contrast with the tracks of the Olympic event.

  2. The committee had prohibited Nike from associating themselves with London, but the loophole was - Apart from London in the U.K there are 28 other cities named London across the world. Nike brilliantly shot their commercial in all other Londons except the one in U.K, basically allowing Nike to place the word 'London' in their commercial legally.

  3. Nike was not allowed to hire Olympians in their commercials during the event. While Adidas hired various athletes and olympians in their commercials Nike decided to hire average teenagers across the world to feature in its commercials as brand ambassadors and came out with a masterpiece commercial which went absolutely viral.

Nike - Find your greatness commercial - 2012

Nike was trending at no. 1 when the commercial came out during the games beating the Adidas commercial featuring huge Olympic stars

Through the commercial, Nike celebrated every single champion across the world coming from small cities and places. Nike leveraged the emotions of millions of people across the world who are thriving every day to achieve greatness and inspired people like you and me to strive towards greatness and there's nothing that can stop us from achieving it.

It gave a sense of belief to people that greatness is not just for athletes like Cristiano Ronaldo or Lebron James but also for people working towards it with a fighting spirit like these athletes. Nike showed its brilliance by putting that extra effort into making this beautiful commercial beating all odds to emerge successful whilst sending a positive message to people across the world.

This sends a message to every single one of us out there to raise your expectations rather than lower them and to FIND YOUR GREATNESS.

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