Nike Optimizes Liu Xiang Situation

Nike Liu Xiang - Love

If you’re not familiar with the Liu Xiang and his injury, see here.

In a brilliant, and stunningly swift move for a large org, Nike has managed to get full page “Just Do It” print ads into this morning’s China papers supporting Liu Xiang.  The “Love” treatment, which you can see more on here, has this copy (translated from the Mandarin):


Love competition.
Love risking your pride.
Love winning it back.
Love giving it everything you’ve got.
Love the glory. Love the pain.
Love sport even when it breaks your heart.

Just Do It.


Given some of the cultural issues surrounding China’s hosting of the Olympics, this is just a fantastic local response by the Brand.  Otherwise, razor sharp with the Brand ID, and certainly Social link bait.

Wonder if the campaign will go worldwide?

Any downside to this approach for Nike?

4 thoughts on “Nike Optimizes Liu Xiang Situation

  1. Hi Jim,
    What do you think makes a big corporation slow to exploit opportunities?
    Do people naturally get in each others way? Do you think the Nike optimisation vision came from the top of the food chain?
    I think it’s positive risk taking, the obvious downside is that its in a newspaper so no return visit metrics.

  2. Chico, thanks for the comment.

    Yes, well with some media you just have to “believe”…which brings up, would have been interesting to go with the same campaign online. I took a look at the China Olympic sites that day and did not see anything. I think you might argue this was primarily an “in country” execution, given the cultural situation surrounding this athlete.

    If I was to guess, this might have been a “Super Bowl” kind of execution – you have ads ready for each team, so you are “right” no matter who wins. He was known to be in pain, though it’s not clear anybody knew how much pain, again, due to the cultural pressure.

    Not sure how long it takes to get a full page ad into a Chinese newspaper, but if it’s anything like the US, it’s likely they already had the space ready for a “Congratulations” ad and swapped this one in after the race. It’s also possible they had this one ready to go, “just in case”.

    All that said, it’s still a very strong Brand statement and are tricky one given the beating that “Olympic failures” take culturally in China. Though perhaps a slam dunk idea in many other countries, a “you’re a hero anyway” kind of thing approach, you have to take into account the Chinese “loser” context when you do something like this.

    I’ve never worked with Nike so I don’t know how the internals work but I’d guess this execution was either in the pipe OR they have a policy of local (or Olympic) autonomy and someone simply put their neck on the line.

    If the latter, hope they get promoted. Given the context of the opening ceremonies and all the “messaging” China was doing there, this ad sort of rolls into that messaging and says, Just Do It (China).

    What makes a big corporation slow to exploit opportunities?

    They are usually centralized and siloed – one of the reasons I talk so much about using cross-silo teams and process-oriented thinking. You can still be big, but you can be nimble when it counts.

    That goes double or triple for a business that runs in real time. If you don’t let go of some of the decision-making and push it down locally, you will never capture the advantages of real time.

    You have to manage by the numbers instead of by “walking around”, if you know what I mean.

  3. I agree great response but do you think Nike have blotted their copybook by using strong arm tactics against the blogger who stated that Nike had ordered Liu to retire because his winning chnaces were slim- they seem to be using the full repressive powers of the Chinese controlover the domestic internet to identify the source of the rumour- seems they may have over-reacted?

  4. Hi Rob, thanks for the comment.

    I’d have to agree with you. If the chatter about this move is accurate, seems to me it wipes out the goodwill created by the ad in the first place, though we still have to consider the cultural aspects that might be in play.

    So, for example, it looks to me (and you, and many others in “the West”, I think) that this move doesn’t make any sense at all relative to the “Love” campaign. It’s very “small” of Nike, it seems, to react to a sole blogger with a story that may or may not be accurate, and their reaction tends to reinforce a notion that it might be true.

    If these decisions are local (China) however, there may be other issues at stake – honor, for example – that override our Western notion that Nike would be better off just leaving the blogger alone. But I’m not qualified to address cultural issues in China from a Marketing perspective.

    And referencing Chico above, I suppose it’s also possible that the “big corporation” fell back into play here, and some legal or related group jumped the gun on this blogger without a trip over to the “Brand Silo” for a little discussion on the finer points of PR in the age of social communications…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.