Nike store plots virtual outdoor adventure with mobile tech

Dive Brief:

  • Nike and retail experience agency Hovercraft Studio developed an in-store activation that simulates an outdoor expedition while keeping COVID-19 safety protocols in mind, per details shared with Marketing Dive.
  • Currently available at Nike’s NYC House of Innovation and running through Feb. 11, the experience looks to re-create the feeling of visiting Smith Rock State Park in Oregon. A geofenced microsite serves as the “basecamp” for visitors, who can use the mobile site to access a map and checklist of activities that require augmented reality (AR) and scanning QR codes to complete.
  • Once users have fully explored the activation, they are rewarded with physical goodies and an AR model of the new ACG Hiker shoe. The effort arrives as experiences that blend physical and digital elements — sometimes known as “phygital” marketing — are in higher demand amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Dive Insight:

COVID-19 has presented steep challenges to experiential marketing, but Nike’s latest work with Hovercraft shows how mobile can help brands execute in-person activations in a safer fashion. The concept deploys a number of tactics, including AR, QR codes and geofencing, to ensure contact with physical surfaces and other people remains minimal, while leveraging those same technologies to build a larger narrative around Nike’s ACG HO20 line of outdoor products. Nike is also running a similar experience in its Paris flagship.

The experience includes virtual animals like foxes, snakes and bald eagles to deepen immersion, as well as physical props such as a terrarium containing Nike products, as seen in a video published by Hovercart. During the journey, users can scan a QR code in store to access an AR Yeti that sports a reimagined version of the old-school ACG Hiker shoe. Nike+ members also receive an ACG canteen and sticker pack.

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In a press release, Hovercraft — which has long worked with Nike on tech-enabled experiences — suggested that the pandemic has pushed experiential marketers to think beyond transaction-oriented activities.

“While many brands are trading off experience design for safety and other logistical priorities, we are attempting to achieve balance,” the agency said, later noting that the mobile-focused approach avoids problems like having to frequently clean surfaces.

Despite larger hits to the retail category, Nike is planning to grow its store footprint while still prioritizing digital, which now makes up about a quarter of its sales in North America. On a recent earnings call with investors, Nike executives said the company’s membership program added about 70 million new users globally since the outset of the COVID-19 crisis.

Nike putting a more concentrated push behind its ACG collection now also makes sense, as interest in outdoor activities that have social distancing built in has skyrocketed during the pandemic.

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