Think Creative Collective

Digital Storytelling, the Nike Formula & the Ideal Client Mindset

Brand Connection, Kansas City Center StageAbagail PumphreyComment

Consumers continue to shift and accelerating expectations continue to push the boundaries even for one of the world’s most recognized sports apparel companies. The American Marketing Association of Kansas City gathered for their Fall Seminar this week. The event was graciously hosted by Avila University in the Goppert Theatre. Jabari Hearn, Senior Marketing Director for Nike West, based in Los Angeles, presented on Content and Storytelling in a Digital, Mobile and Social World. John Holt, Fox 4 News Anchor moderated the event.

Learn how the strategies from an established mega brand like Nike can affect the way you run your small business. | BONUS: Free Muse Worksheet to find your Ideal Client | Think Creative Collective

Nike Knows Storytelling

Bringing a brand story to life is no longer just newspaper ads and white pages inserts. Times have changed and Jabari, one of Nike’s most senior, talented and accomplished marketing leaders in North America knows the story. Whether the topic is inspiring through sports like Football, Basketball or Gold, with their communities of dedicated online fans or building the Nike+ community of almost 30 million people, Nike knows online content strategy. And when it comes to digital storytelling, Nike is a legend, working with an endless supply of legends. The result? Nike has revolutionized the online space, creating best practices that result in online communities and content tailored specifically for each passionate audience. Before you suggest these lessons can’t possibly apply to you with your small business or infinitely smaller budget, think again. You are hearing the formulas and lessons learned from pioneers in the field. And best practices apply to every budget, in every field.

Getting to Nike

Jabri started his career in a situation pretty much any college freshman can relate to. Jabari wanted to be an Architect, except he landed in a college who didn’t offer the degree. He started with what he thought would be the next best thing, Mechanical engineering. A social butterfly crammed in an auditorium, just wasn’t going to work, so he switched majors. Next up, Marketing! However, after figuring out Econ 101 was a complete beast and it could single handedly make him lose his Basketball scholarship, he switched again. Advertising it was.

Jabri got a lucky break after graduation and landed in one of the world’s most acclaimed advertising agency, DDB Needham, but that doesn’t mean he had it easy. He started on the bottom as a Traffic Manager. It wasn’t until nearly 10 years into his career that he finally landed at Nike. After 8 years under his belt at headquarters he begged to be transferred to the LA office with his wife and 2 boys. A year later his wish came true.

The Consumer Decides

Consumers have long dictated what is and is to be. We live in a supply and demand driven society. We grow and change every second and are manipulated by the world around us. We have begun to expect things, not because we intentionally do, but because we are wired that way. How many of you have touched a screen assuming you were able to zoom with two fingers and then were frustrated by the lack of reaction? Apple taught you to expect this.
These sort of everyday things translate throughout your life. What you see in one part, affects what you expect in another. The consumer’s expectations continue to accelerate and we all are just trying to keep up.

Digital is Oxygen

You wake up everyday, you turn the alarm off on your phone, you sit up in bed either scrolling through your Facebook feed, popping over to Instagram, triple checking your calendar or, gasp, checking your work email. A decade ago, this wasn’t even possible. We are talking pre-iPhone people!
“Check out the two pictures of St Peter's Square in Rome below. At the announcement of Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, one person in a crowd of thousands is taking a picture. Everyone else is transfixed on what is happening in front of them.

 Fast forward eight years to the inauguration of Pope Francis, throw in a few billion mobile phones, and voila, a crowd of thousands cannot watch a never-to-be-repeated event without viewing it through a 10cm by 4cm screen. Has the world gone mad!? (source)”

On the other hand we are able act as live attendees to events we could never dream of getting to see. Just a few weeks ago thousands of people were able to livestream (through Periscope) Pope Francis arriving on U.S. soil for the first time. This wasn’t like landing on the moon, or watching the olympics. This felt personal, as if you were right there, in the middle of the action. 

Having a digital device or should I say multiple devices has become so commonplace it is like oxygen. You breathe it every day without even thinking about what is happening. For business, that means every way in which we have/should/could/would/can do business has also changed. If your website is not mobile responsive, we have got to chat!

The American Marketing Association of Kansas City

The Nike Marketing Formula

Nike has built their entire brand on 3 core principles:

  • Great Products
  • Great Athletes
  • Great Stories

 But how does this formula relate to you and your business?

Great Products (or Services)

Having premium products that fill a need is crucial. They are the foundation of your business and obviously are what bring in the revenue. Obsess over every detail.

Great Athletes (Your Dream Team)

Nike built their business and tailor made products for specific athletes in mind. If you aren’t a sports based company you should be building your products around your dream team, i.e. your ideal client, or customer. Tailor every aspect of your brand to focus as if you were marketing to one person. If you try to speak to everyone, you will end up speaking to no one.

Great Stories

Tell a story, make it personal, make it massively personal. How can you reach someone in a way that they immediately feel like you are talking to just them? Tell a compelling story and wrap them up in the process. Get them involved and have them feel apart of the community. 

The Ideal Client Mindset

By 2020 Nike wants you to see them differently. No longer just a product based company, but service first. They want to inspire a generation of athletes, sighting an athlete as anyone with a body. And to make this happen they are listening to their muse, their ideal client, the young and the fast.

Rather than honing your ideal client into some demographic box by listing out their:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Marital Status

We should be focused on their mindset, their values and their psychographic characteristics!

Need help defining your business muse (or ideal client/customer)? Download our Muse Worksheet, along with many other great resources Backstage.


Think Creative Collective is a one-stop Branding and Marketing Shop created to help grow businesses, simplify social media and streamline your life. Think Creative Collective also serves as an online resource for small business owners, and creative entrepreneurs with new blog content every week. Check out our 160+ blog posts in the archives!