Nike Stands on its Brand

Published on: December 20, 2017
By: Brad Bane


Market Track is about to release a point-of-view that shows the average depth of discount contained in the November print circulars of nine leading retailers is 42%.  This discount percentage is very similar to what was seen in 2016.  Not surprising, shoppers have been conditioned to buy on deal during the holiday season.

For retailers, this is what they do in an attempt to cut through the clutter and generate a successful holiday shopping season that the NRF estimates can account for as much as 30% of annual sales.  Talk about making the season merry and bright!

For brands, the holiday season can often seem a bit more like a lump of coal.  Sure, it (Christmas) gooses sales at the end of the year.  But it also has a deleterious effect on brand equity that is difficult to recapture during the remaining ten plus months. Bah, humbug.

To make matters worse, the wounds to brand equity are often self-inflicted, through either ill-spent promotional dollars or (worse yet) misguided direct-to-consumer offers.  Why would I ever pay full price for my preferred brand of work clothes again when I know I can get them for 50% off at least once (and maybe more often) per year with free shipping – and that I can actually do a little better than that by creating a deal stack?  And I’m not talking about clearance rack fashions (though my teenagers might beg to differ, believing anything I own is no longer fashionable), I’m talking about the current season's styles.

So what’s a brand not named Apple or Tesla to do?  I’d argue Nike presents a good case study in how brands can do a better job of turning that lump of coal into a diamond (and yes, I do realize coal doesn’t turn into diamonds, I just choose to belabor this particular rhetorical device). It’s a playbook that most any brand can follow – assuming it has the discipline.

  1. Guard your brand: To that end, Nike partnered with Market Track to develop a more holistic approach to monitoring compliance with its Minimum Advertised Price policies.  You can read more about it in our case study here.

  2. Build a strong retail team: Though still currently in wide distribution, Nike has made a commitment to narrow its focus to 40 key retail partners, focusing on those “willing to create a unique, branded Nike space within the store and have specific Nike-trained employees to assist with sales.”  This move corresponds with an increased focus on direct-to-consumer sales.

  3. Put only your best foot forward: If you look around, you can absolutely find the Nike brand on sale, as well as some purported discount codes in circulation.  But unlike many (most?) brand websites this time of year, those deals are not plastered all over the online store.  At the time of this writing the only deal advertised broadly on the website was for free shipping (a no-brainer), and none of the current season items on the site were on markdown.

  4. Limited editions are a slam dunk: In addition to select discounting, Nike (and other shoe brands, to be fair) uses limited editions to keep shoppers constantly on the hunt.  And whether keeping those limited editions to themselves or sharing with trusted retail partners (such as this Virginia store that was so inundated with customers it had to cancel the scheduled shoe release), they serve as trip drivers that I’d argue are at least as good as those obtained via discounting.  Ugly Christmas sweater Nikes, anyone?

No doubt Nike is a strong brand, and that absolutely helps them in implementing the strategy outlined above.  But conversely their strategy choices help them maintain their status as a strong brand in a sort of virtuous circle.  Nike provides a prime example of how to stand on your brand (they can even literally get you to do it), while offering a blueprint that other companies can follow…during the holidays, or any time of year.

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Brad Bane is an Executive Vice President with Market Track, a leading provider of marketing and business intelligence. He can be reached at





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