argnetpicnic2008.jpgEditor’s Note: Daniël van Gool, an administrator at the Unfiction forums, was on the scene at PICNIC ’08 on behalf of ARGNet. We were impressed with Daniël’s work covering PICNIC ’07 and, as media partners of the annual cross-media festival, were invited to a number of special events in addition to the speaker sessions. This is the fifth part of Daniël’s comprehensive look at this year’s event, a continuation of his analysis of day two of the event. All pictures are courtesy of Daniël as well.

Another very interesting talk followed, titled Commercial Collaborations: Tools, Things and Toys by Michael Tchao from Nike. This talk expanded some more on the theme of connecting the physical and online worlds and even a little bit on data visualization by addressing one of Nike’s most successful ventures of the past years: Nike+.

In short, Nike was looking for a way to connect the physical activity of running to a digital community, creating a buzz around their brand by creating indispensable tools that connect consumers to each other and the Nike brand.

Looking at runners, there’s only a small group of people that is actually self-motivated. A lot of runners need motivation though, and this is where Nike+ proved to be a valuable addition to the concept of running: digital technology can now provide data, such as distance ran, pace, and calories burned.

Another trend is that music is growing rapidly as an important factor when it comes to running. Forty percent of people say they would not run without music and participation by people who run with music shifted from 25% to 75% in a few years time. Also, fifty percent of iPod owners say that they use their devices in some form or other for sports. This is why Nike teamed up with Apple to develop Nike+, which builds a digital set of information around the iPod functionality: a website that collects statistics and has you set goals for yourself. In short, it provides motivation.

Upon request from its users, a Challenge function was implemented, so people could challenge themselves or others to reach certain goals and keep track of progress. People have met through this community, challenging each other online, but also making friends in real life. The community has taken on the challenge ability to make very interesting challenges (for example, Europe vs Japan, Cat lovers vs. Dog Lovers, Simpsons fans vs. South Park fans, etc.)

Expansion of the community element is still going on: Nike launched a web store, which sold selected T-shirts, available only for people who reached a certain milestone — the 100 Mile Club, for example. Also, you can now create an avatar that you can plug into Facebook to communicate your running progress to your friend and that will motivate you to run if you didn’t.

All in all, Nike+ is a great example of a very successful way of using a community in a commercial setting, which should tell other companies something about possibilities.

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