Chalk Shows Nike Understands The LeBron James Market

LeBron James Candyman

When you’re a company as big as Nike (their current market cap hovers somewhere north of $34 billion), it’s easy to fall back on brand awareness/brand management when it comes time to roll out a new commercial, and that can lead to laziness and stagnation, as you figure that as long as you’re getting the brand name out there and into the public eye, then you’re moving the brand forward.

Just Do It

However, Nike has stayed on top of their game not because they’re willing to sit back and reap the rewards of previous successes, but because they’re willing to push the limits of what’s possible with brandvertising, and prove to the world that they’re not just on the cutting edge; they’re defining it.

LeBron James Season Six

Their latest spot for the new shoes from LeBron James, called the Season Six, features LeBron and his now famous pre-game routine in which he throws a handful of talcum powder into the air. It’s an electrifying moment, and ‘Chalk’ captures the emotion and the power of that moment and turns it into a strong, beautiful, and inspirational commercial:

However, what you might have missed are a few of the finer details sprinkled throughout the commercial:

  • The background music is a song called ‘Candyman’, originally recorded in 1997 by the British indie group Cornershop. Though it’s more than 10 years old, it still feels fresh even today, and along with the fact that Nike gave the chart topping Lil’ Wayne a cameo in the commercial, shows that Nike understands the music that their target audience listens to.
  • Lil’ Wayne, who grew up on the streets, is no stranger to the ‘candy’ (cocaine) during his rise to fame, and the symbolic brushing of the chalk from his shoes (rising from the streets to stardom, which mirrors LeBron’s rise), shows that Nike understands the streets that their target audience grows up on, and the challenge to rise that they are faced with.
  • Jamie Nared, whose cameo in the commercial features her playing against a team of boys (Jamie was kicked off of her high school’s basketball team for being too good) as well as a shot of her standing alone in the girls locker room shows that Nike understands the struggle for success that their target audience must go through.
  • In addition to LeBron and Jamie, the chalk is also thrown by a barber, an amateur basketball player, a student, fans at the game and a donut maker, covering them all and symbolizing the fact that inspiration from an amazing player like LeBron can touch the lives of almost everyone, and shows that Nike understands the power of the players that they sponsor. (Nike’s contract for LeBron was $90 million over 7 years, though they made it when his skills in the NBA were still untested. However, they were willing to support him because they believed in his potential. In addition, the fact that they sponsor the best of the best shows that they understand what it takes to be the best at any sport, and that their products are what players trust to get them to that level.)
  • The chalk thrown in the donut shop (a central meeting place for the working man) and the barbershop (a central meeting place for the urban community) shows that Nike understands the communities that their target audience lives in.

Jamie Nared Chalk

The mix of music, street, struggle, inspiration and community all combine to show that Nike understands the target audience that it is advertising to better than any other shoe company, and if you’re part of that target audience, then Chalk shows that Nike understands you as well. You feel a connection to the brand, and you feel inspired to use your skills like LeBron has used his to conquer whatever obstacles stand in your way.

Crowd Chalk

The Good:

  • Strong connection to the viewer shows that Nike understands the audience.
  • Complex commercials give different levels of meaning to each viewer.
  • ‘Hidden’ metaphors increases repeat watch-ability and pass-along.
  • Longer, slow motion cuts, a lack of color, and a basic storyline slow the message down and let the viewer enjoy the ad.

The Bad:

  • Subtle messages can get lost when viewers are only looking for the punch line.
  • Cutting edge, risky advertising (cocaine references) can lead to brand backlash.

The Future:

  • Commercials tell stories through hidden metaphors and deeper meaning that draws in the viewer and demonstrates shared understanding, building brand recognition but also forming connections that increase brand loyalty.

Nike Basketball

Hat Tip: Ian Schafer

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