Cannes Titanium winner Nike fuels new sport-for-all revolution for unlikely sports heroes

Nike has made a big stir at Cannes Lions 2012, with the Fuelband not only winning the Cyber Grand Prix but now swiping the coveted ‘integrated’ Titanium Grand Prix too, with agency R/GA. Stefan Olander (left), vice-president of digital sport at Nike, dropped into the festival to give a disarmingly charismatic talk about how “super excited” he is about all their new projects, but also giving some real insights into the thinking behind the brand.

The role of the brand, and of advertising, has changed from being one of inspiration, to one of inspiration and enablement, says Olander. The consumer feels entitled to attention – saying ‘Just Do It’ isn’t enough; they want to know how. There’s no doubt that Nike’s development is hugely interlinked with professional sport (their athlete testing lab is a super cool testament to this) but the Fuelband isn’t just for professional athletes, it’s for everyone. As Olander says (with a winning smile) “if you have a body, you’re an athlete.”

The lynchpin of the wristband is that people love to measure themselves and they love to compare their measurements to other people’s (so to speak). This is the motivational infrastructure the Fuel work is based on, and, considering the sizeable and growing demand, it seems they may have something here, however Orwellian it might seem to some to have everyone measured against each other in their daily activities using an arbitrary unit.

Basketball star LeBron James is a big fan of the recent Nike+ Basketball shoe (paid fan, obviously) which measures not only your ‘fuel’ but how high you jump and how fast you’re going, all of which can be mapped out and viewed on a computer. He says “it’s like a video game” and that he would’ve loved one as a kid to compete with his friends every day. According to Olander they didn’t even tell him to say that.

The question is whether that level of competitiveness is as appealing to the layman as it is to a professional sports star. Olander regaled us with tales of office score banter, but perhaps the most ringing endorsement was R/GA CEO Bob Greenberg’s admission that he would often go for a run or do something more active at the end of the day if his fuel score was low.

Greenberg took a retiring back seat in the seminar, but hit the nail on the head when he called the Fuelband “a case study for the future of business and marketing,” and announced that R/GA would be dropping the word ‘agency’ from their vocabulary, identifying the need to be more than a traditional agency in this current climate, by developing new technologies and becoming involved in product development itself.

The Fuelband is still only available in parts of America but will be rolling out globally, so ww wait to see the full impact of this sports/tech revolution. But the remarkable thing about Nike’s standpoint is that there really does seem to be a focus on making exciting new things, breaking boundaries, and creating new consumer experiences. As Olander says (he really is so smooth) “the consumer is the hero” and it’s the willingness of both Nike And R/GA (and Nike’s other agencies Wieden+Kennedy and AKQA) to take risks in developing never-before-seen technology for these unlikely heroes that is keeping them on top of the awards tables.

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About Becky Wilkie

Becky Wilkie is an English Literature graduate striving to uncover the inner workings of the advertising industry; posing as a roaming reporter and working in trade PR. She can otherwise be found playing with her about-to-be famous band Fledglings.