Why Nike Jordan Brand Made a Video Game

December 22, 2015, 3:25 PM UTC
Jordan Brand

Back in July 2012, Nike turned the world into a Nintendo Mario Bros.-inspired video game with the “Game On, World” commercial. These days, Nike is further embracing a video game culture that has become the leading entertainment industry in the world. Research firm Newzoo estimates the global games industry will generate over $91.5 billion this year.

According to the Entertainment Software Association, over 155 million Americans play games regularly. The average age of a gamer is 35, and 44% of gamers are female. And the audience is even large on a global scale, with DFC Intelligence estimating there are over 1.4 billion gamers worldwide.

Nike (NKE) recently turned to 2K’s NBA 2K16 video game to debut Kyrie Irving’s new sneaker, Kyrie 2. That comes on the heels of Nike’s Jordan Brand entering the mobile video game fray for the first time to promote Chris Paul’s new shoe, the CP3.9.

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The company worked with digital agency AKQA to develop the retro game Striking Control to promote the $115 sneaker. Consumers can play the touch-screen game on mobile devices as well as on PCs.

Available at Jordan.com/StrikingControl, players control Paul’s 8-bit avatar through a Jordan Brand-inspired cityscape. As they move right or left to navigate obstacles and dodge lightning, they’ll perform Paul’s signature moves, including the crossover, behind the back, juke, through the legs, side-step, and spin. The game features a chiptune remix of “Energy” by rapper Drake and Boi-1da.

Jordan Brand spokesman Brian Facchini says the company looked at the CP3.9 game as a fun way to bring content directly to its consumers. He says the game is an extension of the Striking Control marketing campaign, which celebrates Paul’s quickness on the court and challenges consumers to compete against each other.

AKQA integrated social media into the experience. Users can tweet #StrikingControl and the lightning emoji to create their own in-game lightning bolt, which will appear along with their Twitter handle when another player is struck down.

“When we looked at delivering the game to consumers, mobile was the clear choice,” Facchini says. “We know that people are busy today and spend most of their time on mobile devices so we wanted to cater to that platform.”

Michael Binetti, analyst at UBS Investment Bank, says the eternal challenge for Nike and its Jordan Brand is to stay young, fresh, and relevant.

“Nike has done as good a job of transitioning itself from generation to generation, which is hard for an old brand to do,” Binetti says.

Nike’s recent exploration of video games makes sense to Binetti, as there’s been a shift in how this generation consumes media.

“There are so many millennials’ — and younger — eyeballs on video game screens; and how they interact with peers, today’s social currency occurs in gaming,” Binetti says.

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There’s also a financial reason for this recent exploration of gaming. Binetti says at the end of the day it’s a matter of media impressions and following where the eyeballs are.

“Does it make sense to advertise on NBC during prime time, or spend a smaller dollar amount for the exact customer they’re looking for through gaming?” Binetti says.

The fact that most NBA players are also avid gamers, including both Irving and Paul, helps Nike connect with gamers.

“If the customer knows that Kyrie is a gamer, it’s good for the storytelling,” Binetti says.

These recent shoe releases also connect to the NBA, for which Nike recently won the license at a reported cost of $1 billion for eight years. Binetti says the NBA license will help Nike globalize its business, as will games.

“Finding a media like video games and apps that you can share across geographies is brilliant,” Binetti says.

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