Nike Promo, Case study MVP PUPPETS by Wieden + Kennedy Portland

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Industry Sportswear, Athletic Footwear & Accessories
Media Promo & PR, Case study
Market United States
Agency Wieden + Kennedy Portland
Creative Director Ryan O'rourke, Alberto Ponte, Jeff Williams
Art Director Matt Murphy
Copywriter Edward Harrison
Account Supervisor Alyssa Ramsey
Released May 2009

Credits & Description

Category: Best Use of Television
Advertiser: NIKE
Product/Service: NIKE BASKETBALL
Date of First Appearance: May 9 2009 12:00AM
Entrant Company: WIEDEN+KENNEDY, Portland, USA
Entry URL:
Global Brand Connections Director: Todd Pendleton (Nike)
US Media Director: Dave Genel (Nike)
Brand Connections Manager: Alistair Campbell (Nike)
US Media Manager: Jeff Jelderks (Nike)
Account Supervisor: Alyssa Ramsey (Wieden+Kennedy)
Account Planner: Desmond Marzette (Wieden+Kennedy)
Media Supervisor: Christy Ruiz (Wieden+Kennedy)
Associate Media Director: Tenny Park (Wieden+Kennedy)
Broadcast Buying Director: Tom Winner (Wieden+Kennedy)
US Broadcast Buying Director: Seth Zarkin (Wieden+Kennedy)
Broadcast Buying Supervisor: Crystal Moore (Wieden+Kennedy)
Creative Director: Alberto Ponte (Wieden+Kennedy)
Creative Director: Jeff Williams (Wieden+Kennedy)
Copywriter: Edward Harrison (Wieden+Kennedy)
Art Director: Matt Murphy (Wieden+Kennedy)
Group Media Director: Daniel Sheniak (Wieden+Kennedy)
Media Supervisor: Emily Leonard (Wieden+Kennedy)
Broadcast Producer: Matt Hunnicutt (Wieden+Kennedy)
Management Supervisor: Jarrett Dube (Wieden+Kennedy)
Media placement: TV Spots - 13 Spots - TV & Online (ESPN + NBA) - 09/05/2009
Media placement: ESPN Programming Integrations - TV & Online (ESPN) - 27/05/2009
Media placement: Online Advertising - Online (ESPN + NBA) - 22/05/2009
Media placement: Newspaper - LA Times - 17/06/2009
Media placement: Magazines - NBA, Slam, Hoop - 20/07/2009

Results and Effectiveness
The puppets became the focal point of the 2009 NBA Playoffs. Consumers were kept off-balance by how quickly these characters reacted to current events. The puppets led the basketball conversation on the blogosphere. Visible Measures, a third-party source that publishes top-performing campaigns, ranked the MVPs at the top of the viral chart throughout the entirety of the NBA Playoffs. Nike’s sponsored LeBron channel on YouTube increased its subscription base during this time by 500%. From a business standpoint, Nike Basketball merchandised the puppets as a commercial property that significantly increased basketball sales across footwear, apparel and puppets merchandise.

Creative Execution
We developed two distinct layers to the TV campaign. The first consisted of episodic spots that ran during the live action of the NBA Playoffs. While the real Kobe and LeBron were on the court, the puppets were providing colour commentary on their performance. All media was strategically placed around NBA games, as well as shoulder programming where the games were being discussed. By staying relevant to real-life playoff action, the puppets quickly immersed themselves into the conversation. The second layer involved a partnership with ESPN/ABC that organically wove the puppets into playoff programming. Working together with ESPN’s team, we were able to treat the puppets as any real sports anchor/athlete. Overall, the puppets appeared in over 50 original segments across various programming platforms. The ESPN partnership allowed Nike to once again bring innovative storytelling to our audience, keeping them on their toes with unexpected experiences.

Insights, Strategy & the Idea
When the sports world zigs, Nike zags. There was a lot of hype surrounding the 2009 NBA Playoffs, with the potential of a LeBron vs. Kobe matchup in the Finals. While the mainstream sports media continued to hype the “Who’s better?” debate, Nike did not. We believed pairing LeBron and Kobe in a sitcom-type experience would make for a fun commentary on the game of basketball. Thus, we created the MVP series, a.k.a. “Most Valuable Puppets”. It was still Kobe and LeBron, only smaller and made of fabric. Our goal was to make the puppets feel real and alive at all connection points. We programmed the multi-platform experience like a sitcom, based on critical moments throughout the NBA Playoffs. We kept the campaign fresh by keeping all communications topical, with the puppets responding to real events happening on and off the court.