SPORTS ADVERTISING AND THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF CLOTHING: NIKE VS. ADIDAS VS. THE NORTH FACE

I’ve been interested for a while about the appeal of sports brands and the idea that by wearing a certain logo on your shirt you’ll be able to physically transcend all the limits you found on yourself before. I even think this is true to an extent, it seems like the power of what we believe is pretty strong and the transformative power of clothing is definitely proven. So, if a sportswear company is able to convince the consumer that their clothes will really make you run faster, jump higher, float like a butterfly, sting like a bee then perhaps wearing that brand really will improve your performance.

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at a couple of different marketing strategies taken by sportswear giants Nike, Adidas and The North Face. The first video I reference is an ad for Nike starring female tennis player Maria Sharapova. Sharapova is followed as she readies herself to leave her room in London, navigates the hallway and foyer of the hotel, drives to the stadium and walks on court for a match. Along the way various bystanders at the hotel and in the arena sing the song ‘I Feel Pretty’ from the 1961 musical Westside Story. When Sharapova walks onto the court the whole crowd begins to sing and the song climaxes. However when she serves the ball with a characteristic shriek the crowd is silenced and the logo ‘Just Do It’ appears on screen. Sharapova looks determinedly past the camera, ignoring the superfluous events unfolding around her, focused solely on the match.

The add seems to be making the case that if you are a sportsperson and wear Nike everyone will want either want to be you or resent you, but either way you won’t really care. I don’t actually think it is particularly effective in making you feel like a Nike person is someone you would want to be. I do, however, think it plays to people who are interested in acquiring wealth, fame and power via sport. This might make people buy more Nike clothes, but it probably won’t be all that effective in convincing those people that the clothes will make them better sportspeople. More snobby maybe, with a better body, but not any better able to serve a ball.

In contrast the Adidas add is joyous and fun. Two real kids from Argentina were asked to pick their ‘dream team’ from available players. An advertisement was then filmed in which the kids do this on camera and the legendary players verse off. Although this add brings a sense of enjoyment and fantasy to the brand, lending it an air of escapism, I still don’t feel it does as much as it could to build the idea that the brand’s clothes are transformative. That Adidas-wearers are more for dreamers than serious athletes is what I took from it. You can dream about being your best player, but there is no link to say this is directly achievable. At the end of the day the boys still live in a run-down impoverished Argentinean city.

I found the most successful add to be a The North Face one. In this video one feels as if one is sent into a hypnotic trance of mountaineering images and daring feats. At intervals an explorer wearing North Face comes on screen and tells you ‘don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t achieve something’ or something to that effect. It’s all a bit Mugatu brainwashing Derek in Zoolander but for me it works. It says ‘If you wear North Face you will be better at climbing mountains, you will be able to do things that you previously thought you could.’ And here, the simplest, seems to be the best.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fncOu6dp1IY : Adidas Commerical – +10

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3c7ERra-YLw: Nike Commercial – Sharapova

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xsWC45Yc4k: The North Face – Retail Loop

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