Just do it – As Nike+ did with Gamification


Let’s be honest, competitive games are so much fun! If you look back, your most enjoyable moments were probably spent playing a game or two with family or friends. You probably competed fiercely with each other during such times, albeit in a fun sort of way. And of course, these competitions were so much more gratifying if you actually did win!!

There is a reason why you had a great time then. Competition plays an important factor in the human evolutionary process. The instinct for survival drives most of the animal kingdom to compete with each other for resources. Therefore competing is a biological trait that has evolved for the survival of the fittest. Throughout human history, people have been organizing competitions in one form or another, from the ancient Greek Olympic Games (going back as far as 776 BC) to modern-day football FIFA World Cup. In fact, when you look closely, you’ll notice that competition is everywhere in modern society. Economists even promote competition as an essential force in maintaining productive and efficient markets. There is something compelling about the nature of playing games and competing with others, which in turn gives us an opportunity to prove our abilities to others.

Interestingly, in the evolutionary process, we also realized that co-operating with each other too proves beneficial for survival. Playing games with each other can satiate both these instincts in humans. When you play games, two things happen – a) you compete with each other to win and b) while playing a special bond builds between the players. Thus humans have managed to nurture both these instincts. They use it as & when necessary or sometimes use both of these traits to achieve the desired outcome.

Speaking of survival of the fittest, Nike Company at one time was competing hard with other shoe brands like Adidas, Puma, New Balance, and a few others. They had to respond to gain back their competitive advantage over these other brands. In order to achieve this, they introduced ‘Gamification’ in their marketing arsenal. Gamification is essentially the concept of bringing game mechanics to something that isn’t usually considered game-like. In today’s business world Gamification aims at integrating the physical world, a website, web app or native app. Nike added ‘Gamification’ to the shoe buying & using experience of their customers. They brought together Nike shoe buyers and created a community of runners. Nike’s goal was to motivate its customers to get physically more active and start running!! Nike successfully applied the competitive trait in humans and fused it in their marketing strategy with the help of Design Thinking and managed to up their game!!

How did Nike do it? 

‘Nike+’ caters to the community of runners who are comfortable running while carrying their smartphone. After the runners download the Nike+ Run Club* (NRC) app on their Android or iPhone devices, the app urges them to get into the habit of running. NRC offers several ways for the runners to get going. If someone has just started running or someone is preparing for a race, NRC has something that motivates every type of runner. The app picks up your location through GPS and records personal attributes, such as the height and weight of the runner and can also fully capture the run data. The personal attribute record helps in personalizing and providing more accurate metrics customized for the runner. It lets you choose the type of run such as — basic, by distance, by duration or according to speed; for the routine running needs. NRC also supports the run by an ‘Audio-Guided Run’ featuring motivational voiceovers from Nike’s top coaches, athletes, and special guests. If one has a goal in mind like preparing for a marathon in the near future, it is possible to initiate a ‘Coach Plan’ that’s tailored for you. The Coach Plan enables guidance by experts on how to achieve a running goal. The workouts recommended are designed to help runners improve strength, speed, and endurance and have fun along the way. The app also automatically marks intervals in the route, so all you need to do is press start and run. If you happen to be running in a new city on your travels, ‘Nike+ Places’ is a web tool that lets you discover new routes by using a heat map or by tapping in a postcode, to find known running routes nearby. This will let you create new run maps for your own new routes. The other web browser version of Nike+ each run comes with some extra insights like how you compare to the average Nike+ runner in your age groups for things like pace and overall distance. So many features!! Nike doesn’t want anyone to stop running now, do they?


Just Play

Challenges, challenges, and more challenges. Nike+ keeps the engagement quotient high by adding friendly competition to the running routines. One can choose any Challenge within the app and run the total mileage before the deadline. The app keeps a check on your progress and lets you see how where you stand against other NRC runners on the Leaderboard (leaderboards recognize the top players who have accumulated the most points while letting other players know who they have to beat and how ahead they are in the game). This acts as stimuli for the runner to compete not only to beat his/her own record but to beat others at their best. This feature tries to bring out the best out of the runners and keep improving their speed & stamina. Another social feature of Nike+ Run Club is the use of hashtags such as – #betterforit, #runforsprouts, #adventrunning, etc. It lets people get involved in a whole range of global challenges or they can create your own! This motivates the runner to constantly refine their technique which takes a lot of mental as well as physical effort.

Take your cheerleaders along!

Wouldn’t it be nice to take your supporters everywhere you go, especially when the going gets tough? Have close ones watch your back and believe in you come what may? Well, Nike+ Run Club thinks so too! Therefore they have facilitated an ‘In-run’ support from your friends, family and running mates on the go to cheer you on the run. Simply hit the Settings button on the run screen and get on Audio Feedback. You can even set your preferences for the style and frequency of voice feedback on your runs and toggle Nike+ Run Club ‘Cheers’ and Facebook Cheers on or off as desired. When these are both ON, Nike posts to your feed on Facebook to let people know you’re heading out and they can simply ‘Like’ or comment on the post to give you an over-the-ear boost while on your run.


Music to your ears

Most of us like listening to music while we run these days as it makes the run so much more rhythmic and enjoyable. Nike+ Run Club app conveniently connects to Spotify and Apple Music and lets you control your music from within the Nike+ Run Club smartphone app, or on your Apple Watch. The runners can also access the weekly curated Nike+ Run Club playlists.

The Nike+ advantage

Nike+ turned around the business of Nike by locking in a controlling portion of the running shoe market. In 2007 there were 500,000 Nike+ members. In 2013, there were 11,000,000 Nike+ members and the numbers haven’t stopped growing. Overall, the growth of Nike+ was superbly successful. It created a previously inconceivable and now growing community of people, who enjoyed staying fit and who just needed that extra nudge in that direction which was facilitated by Nike. By promoting a healthy habit of running amongst its members, Nike changed the dynamics of their relationship with their customer base. They turned ‘running’ from a solo activity into a game of competing within a community of runners which allowed their physical health to be feted and encouraged. The reward for bringing about this social change for Nike was – the demand for Nike shoes skyrocketed, and the brand awareness peaked too. A Win-Win all the way!

Competitors join the game

After Nike led the way, Adidas and Puma too entered the Gamification realm. Adidas introduced ‘miCoach’ which is an Adidas product category that has been created to offer consumers of all levels of personal coaching with training programs designed by the world’s top coaches. The goal of ‘miCoach’ is to enhance the user’s athletic abilities, irrespective of the sport they play. Now Puma turned life into one big game with the ‘Life Scoreboard’! It is the latest component of the Puma Social campaign celebrating the ‘after-hours’ athlete. Who’s better at ping pong? Who is the most creative? Who has the upper hand—you or your hangover? The users can create instant scoreboards on the new online and mobile platform for anything they want to compare themselves with, rate anything they do and with anyone they interact with. These live scoreboards can be added to users’ blogs or websites for others to view.

Now “this” competition is surely heating up the shoe market and making things more interesting huh??

*Nike+ Run Club was earlier called Nike+ Running before 2016 after they added and subtracted a few features.

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Written by Priya Dubey / December 26, 2018