Lockout Viral: Nike Never Stops, Even If The NBA Does

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Even when financial disputes between players and owners see a professional sport shut down, brands and sponsors are now facing up to the challenge and activating around the shut down.


Due to the ongoing salary negotiations between the NBA players’ union and the league, the basketball season has been put on indefinite hold. This has left many die-hard basketball fans feeling lost and confused. So, a full four months in to the NBA lockout, Nike decided to remind viewers that ‘Basketball Never Stops’.


With many of its most famous and most expensive brand ambassadors sitting around idly, the sportswear giant decided to put them to work. A viral, featuring star Nike players such as LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, was released as an homage to the game.


It focused on the fact that whilst the NBA was in cold storage, the game was still being passionately played in colleges, parks and driveways across the country. The film opens with the lights being turned off on a pro team’s basketball court, but then shows how the game continues to flourish on the urban streets and in the back alleys of America, as well as in the amateur college game.


There was a supporting website, with an interactive element allowing consumers to upload their own images and video demonstrating their ongoing commitment to the game. there were even T-Shirts printed and distributed.


The aim was to show the fans that the lockout isn’t the end of the world. This campaign features advertisements showing basketball fans still playing despite the lockout and athletes practicing late at night while everyone else is sleeping, clubbing and caring less about basketball.


It racked up 4m plus views in its first week. Clearly there was still some strong appetite for the game despite the strike.




Whilst it is typically the second half of the season that sees basketball’s rating rise and thus most advertiser activity, for Nike it is a key piece of the company’s marketing plan to have its big brand ambassadors playing the game in their Nike shoes on TV screens. After all, Nike’s basketball revenue contributes a whopping 10% of the company’s total income.


Whether Nike is trying to send the message that basketball is much bigger than just the NBA, or whether the brand is simply trying to connect with its basketball consumers to say ‘we still care – despite the strike’, or just encouraging people to keep playing and keep buying Nike products isn’t quite clear.


Either way, it reflects a wider general trend in sponsorship to keep engaged and to be pro-active in activation despite setbacks, negative publicity and even disaster.




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