Long before the London Games kicked off in July, the International Olympic Committee made it very clear to big businesses and small that you don’t want to mess with them, that they would come after anybody who used the Olympic name or image or implied an affiliation with the Olympics.
The IOC- and LOCOG-empowered ambush marketing squad of branding police got busy, so a small café once called Olympic suddenly became the Lympic and a British florist and shopkeepers were made to take down the bras and window displays set up to look like the sainted Olympic rings.
Areas were designated around all Olympic sporting venues where only official sponsors of the Games, all of which had rolled out barrels of dough, were allowed to show off their logos.
Leave it to Nike, the supposed founder of guerrilla marketing, to break through, though, with not only a rules-testing "Find Your Greatness" TV campaign that featured everyday athletes going for the gusto in other Londons around the world as well as track shoes that were worn by a number of gold medalists and given a bright greenish-yellow chartreuse hue that “the human eye is most sensitive” to, according to NBC News.
NBC goes on to note that Nike’s guerrilla marketing geniuses were likely at work last month when news came out in the Wall Street Journal that a new LeBron James shoe would be coming out this fall at the whopping price of $315. There was a massive outcry about the new LeBron X shoes but it took a few hours for Nike to finally debunk the myth — and even then, it only did so by sending an email to a limited number of reporters rather than making a general pronouncement on the topic.
Sure the sneaks are expected to be much cheaper than that, but the PR boost was unbelievable – and free. And as the WSJ later mused, "Why shouldn't LeBron X shoes be as pricey as Louboutins?"
“No one can control what Nike is leveraging so well — exploiting the social media channels of the world,” said Raymond Bednar, president of Hyperion Marketing Returns in New York, to NBC. “They let the free media ‘buzz’ wing their message to the masses at a fraction of the traditional spenders — who stand in horror and disbelief that they in effect so overpaid for the asset.”
Why not just buy regular old advertising? Well, Nike does that, too, obviously. But a lot of its market, NBC points out, is best reached through alternative methods, creating buzz through viral marketing and word of mouth. All those sneakerheads aren’t necessarily watching the decathlon at the Olympics or paging through your general-interest sports magazines. So Nike attempts to go where its market is, even if it means ducking under the rope from time to time.