Nike Scores Big With
"Hockey is Ours" Campaign 

By: Jeremy Vincent

On September 15th, 2012, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the NHL season would be postponed until a new collective bargaining agreement could be reached. Millions of dollars were lost in ticket and merchandise sales however the greatest cost might have been to the fans. Nike understood the fan’s pain, frustration and agony and released their Hockey is Ours campaign (see below) on December 19th (Miller, Brand Channel). The campaign was memorable and powerful, using strong emotional appeal to achieve its communication objectives. I will show this by first analyzing the design and delivery tools used in this campaign including the target audience, message appeals, spokespersons, and the stage of the buying process stimulated. Second, I will discuss how the original campaign could have been expanded.

Nike’s well-crafted campaign allowed for a large, but specific target audience. The Hockey is Ours campaign will attract all hockey fans, no matter what age, sex or nationality (or favourite team). Additionally, this campaign was released during the World Junior Hockey Championship, increasing the reach and weighted CPM. Depending on their communication objectives, a large target audience should help Nike reach their goals.

This campaign was successful primarily due to its emotional appeal, specifically loyalty and nationalism. The theme of the campaign is that hockey is Canada’s game, period; it will not matter if parts of the NHL season are cancelled (or as the ad says our pucks and sticks are taken away), Canadians will still find a way to get their fix of hockey. Nike has positioned itself as a fan urging the two sides to reconcile, rather than a multi-billion dollar company. By using its considerable power to put pressure on the two sides, the audience will feel a high degree of loyalty to Nike for sticking up for the less powerful fans. Additionally, the common Nike tagline, “Just Do It” featured at the end, suggests the sport is not reliant on the rich superstars, but is driven by the thousands of amateur athletes who play for fun. Nike’s goal of inspiring athletes all over the world (About Nike, Inc.) is exemplified in the ad by encouraging people to play hockey for the love of the sport. By doing so, Nike has successfully tied their brand to Canadian culture. A second, more underlying emotion used is anger. The audience will be upset that the little boy shown in the commercial is willing to move to Russia to play hockey, but the two sides cannot reach an agreement. The audience will once again side with Nike, a company that shows sensitivity to the plight of hockey fans. 

  Nike advertisements are well known for their athlete endorsers such as Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong and Rory McIlroy. The Hockey is Ours campaign follows this theme, using multiple hockey players including Steven Stamkos, P.K. Subban,  Mark Scheifele, and well-known female Olympian Tessa Bonhomme. There could have been considerable backlash by showing NHL players in an anti-NHL commercial, but Nike chose its spokespeople wisely. One common characteristic of these players is their youth; none of them are older than 23 and Scheifele is only 19 ( Players at this age typically still play for the love of the game because they care about proving themselves rather than the money and fame. Additionally, these players are fan favourites, known for their grit and spirit. Therefore, this group of spokespeople will not be viewed negatively and thus bring value to the commercial through recognition and legitimacy.   

  As discussed previously, Nike used affective tactics to help capture the attention of the audience. This tactic is employed when the goal of the campaign is to stimulate the preference and/or conviction stage of the hierarchy of effects. Nike is a well-known global company and therefore can choose to focus its marketing efforts on these latter stages. By siding with the fans in terms of the lockout and carefully choosing the actors and music, Nike has induced positive feelings from the audience. This emotional bond will help convince consumers that Nike truly cares about its customers and will persuade indecisive individuals towards Nike.

  Although this campaign was very effective, it could have been expanded using a second, very different messaging tool. Nike could have hosted/sponsored a free hockey tournament and public skating event in select cities across Canada (see below). Event marketing is a form of public relations, a tool used to “encourage positive media coverage of a company” (Baack, Clow and Peloza 280) The theme of this event would complement the existing theme of the campaign; that even without the NHL, hockey is Canada’s game, a game many love to play for free. The timing of the tournament would be very important as Nike would want to build off the emotional impact of their television advertisement. Therefore the event should be held while the campaign is still running, sometime between Christmas and New Year’s. This would also correspond with the World Junior Hockey Championship, a time when many Canadians are (even more) passionate about hockey.

  The event could have been integrated into the original campaign by providing a website with the host cities and team sign-up information. Next, Nike would need to take care of all of the logistics necessary to organize a tournament and designate certain rinks for public skating. Conviction and preference would once again be a major objective of the event, and could be reinforced through affective tactics. For example, Nike could have a booth where people sign a petition urging the two bargaining sides to reach an agreement, once again demonstrating Nike’s loyalty lies. A second example would be scheduling the event during a Canadian junior game and providing a venue where fans could watch together. Nike could even partner with Tim Horton’s and offer free hot chocolate, further ingraining itself into Canadian culture. Finally, by selling their apparel at the event, Nike could introduce a new objective by stimulating the actual purchase stage of the hierarchy of effects model.

The strong emotional bond created between Nike and hockey fans through the Hockey is Ours campaign was evident in all aspects of the commercial including the message appeal, spokespeople and stage of the buying process stimulated.  Overall, the campaign was very successful and as some journalists pointed out, might have even helped end the lockout (Miller, Brand Channel). Event marketing could have made the campaign even more powerful by strengthening the emotional bond and introducing new marketing objectives. However, since the lockout ended 18 days after the launch of the campaign we will never know how Nike planned to expand the campaign.

                                                                       Works Cited

“About Nike, Inc.” Nike. Web. Mar. 10 2013

Baack, Clow, and Peloza. Integrated Advertising, Promotion and Marketing Communications. Toronto: Pearson, 2013. Print.

Miller, Mark. “How Nike’s ‘Hockey is Ours Campaign’ Helped Nudge NHL Deal.” BrandChannel. Jan 7 2013. Web. Mar 10. 2013

The National Hockey League. Web. Mar 10 2013

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