Nike Competition Lights a Fire Under Young Runners
A month before Athens went flame-on, Nike was on the streets of New York City with a grassroots program that tied its new Speed product line to summer, running and community competition.
Mimicking the Olympic spirit of friendly competition, the six-day Speed Showdown took advantage of rivalries among New York’s five boroughs to find the “fastest teenager” in Gotham. It all began with an extensive grassroots buzz campaign to reach teens via partnerships with hundreds of local organizations such as the Public Schools Athletic League, the Police Athletic League and all area Boys & Girls Clubs. Each partner was given a “speed kit” (a 40-yard tape, stopwatch and scorecards) to run mini-challenges on their own prior to the campaign’s start. Street teams handed out collateral around town to get people pumped, and Nike deployed p.o.s. at local Modell’s Sporting Goods stores.
Qualifying rounds were held at local parks in each borough, which allowed kids to compete close to home and Nike to build relevance by ZIP code. Each borough hosted a day of 40-yard dash competitions, with the fastest legs advancing to a final round. Competitions were broken down into three age brackets each for boys and girls.
The top five runners in each category—a total of 150 teen athletes—advanced to the Speed Showdown Finals in Manhattan. Soho’s Ace Gallery was emptied and converted into a five-lane, 40-yard track with movies and artwork praising the “art of speed.” A dj spun tunes while the competitions unfolded, and the top runner from each borough received a laminated “speeding ticket” signed by Nike ceo Phil Knight at the end of the event. The fastest of them all was hailed on a Nike billboard in Times Square.
In all, 2,500 people attended the qualifying rounds and 1,000 showed at the Finals. Almost 1,000 teens ran their hearts out as part of a program that made an indelible connection between a brand and its customers.