Tag Archives | Brand Recognition

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

Controversy Makes Whopper Virgins A Success For Burger King

Whopper Virgins

For years, the taste test has been a staple of many food advertisers’ arsenal. It’s simple to do, it’s easy to explain, and most of the time the message comes across loud and clear.

Now though, Burger King has decided to follow their lost wallet and Burger King Studio campaigns by giving the taste test a twist, and is documenting the process with a campaign that they’re calling Whopper Virgins, which aims to put the Whopper to “the ultimate taste test without the benefit of brand recognition or marketing support of any kind.” (And specifically, “No kings or clowns.”)

The problem is obvious: When most people see a taste test, they assume that it’s biased; so how do you convince your audience that you’ve managed to assemble the only group of people in the world that have never eaten a burger before into an unbiased group of testers when almost everyone has at least tried a burger or two during the course of their life?

The answer seems even more obvious: Find people that have never before eaten a burger. However, this leads to additional problems, because now you have to find a way to prove that they’ve never eaten a burger. Enter: Whopper Virgins.

The idea is simple: Take people that have never before experienced a burger, prove that they’ve never before experienced a burger with the fact that their language doesn’t even contain a word for burger, and then give them your burger and your competitor’s burger to see which one they like more. Film the whole process (including the always important making of footage), stitch together a convincing story line, and call it a day.

The execution however is critical: You must be convincing enough to show that you actually ran an unbiased taste test, but one-sided enough to show that your brand was the clear winner. It needs to be equal parts documentary and mocumentary, and the taste test must be both entertaining and informational. According to Russ Klein, president of global marketing, strategy and innovation at Burger King,

“During a time when consumers are craving it most, honesty and transparency are the heart and soul of this campaign. By embarking on a voyage of this magnitude that held no guarantees and left us open to vulnerabilities, we took a leap of faith that our signature product would win people over at first bite.”

For the Whopper Virgin documentary, Burger King has only just teased what the campaign will be all about, with cliff-hanger TV commercials that lead to a microsite which features a slideshow and a countdown timer to the documentary’s world premiere, but even with just the few stills and short clips that are currently available, controversy around the ad is already starting to build.

Detractors include Duncan Riley from The Inquisitr who said “It doesn’t get much more offensive than this.” and Sharon Akabas from the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University who said, “It’s outrageous. What’s next? Are we going to start taking guns out to some of these remote places and ask them which one they like better?”

However, according to Brian Gies, vice president of marketing impact at Burger King,

“The people we encountered along the way were wonderful. They were enthusiastic about sampling our product and even more eager to share their culture, including their own food, with the team conducting the tests.”

Depending on how Burger King plays their cards though, this controversy could be what makes this campaign a success, as all eyes will be trained on the website once the countdown timer reaches zero.

Taste Test Timer

In addition, Burger King has already started the process of answering to the criticism with a statement in their press release that said:

At the conclusion of each taste test, Burger King Corp. worked cooperatively with local authorities to make donations, tailored specifically to benefit each individual community that participated in the ‘study’ and make a lasting contribution in each region. The company donated educational supplies and children’s toys in Thailand and Greenland that will benefit local schools and increase learning opportunities for children. In Romania, the company helped fund a restoration of a 17th century church, which will enhance one of the community’s central gathering places.

So besides controversy then, how else does Burger King plan to win with this ad?


Simple: Make Whopper Virgins unavoidable by making it seem like the biggest blockbuster that’s ever been produced. Hire skateboard legend Stacy Peralta to direct it, use 13 Planes, 2 Dog Sleds and 1 Helicopter to help make it all possible, find stereotypes from all around the world will take part in it, and use footage shot in some of the world’s most remote places to bring it all together and make it all happen. Plus, considering the support that this documentary has received so far, it might as well have made its debut on the big screen!

Will it work?

We’ll just have to wait and see, but if you believe that there is no such thing as bad publicity, then the sheer number of times that Whopper Virgins has already been mentioned in the press recently before even launching the official documentary (though much of it negative) is reason enough to call this campaign a success.

The Good:

  • Controversy leads to tons of press coverage.
  • Unique spin on the taste test gives an old format new life.
  • Campaign spans multiple channels, drawing viewers in from all around.
  • Countdown builds hype and gives the campaign an official release.

The Bad:

  • Controversy means much of the press coverage is negative.
  • Hype must be lived up to.

The Future:

  • Longer format commercials become documentaries about the brand, and old concepts are revisited with new spins.

Whopper Virgins