What’s More Ambush Marketing than Nike’s Vault Shoes?

Nike was not an official sponsor of the London 2012 Olympics, but it didn’t need to be one in order to become one of the most iconic brands of the Games. The fluorescent yellow shoes wore by the athletes are Nike’s latest technological progress, that has the potential to change sports performance, according to the company. And you saw this technology in motion, worn by track and field athletes running for gold.

Nike Vault collection

Unmistakable, the new Nike Vault shoes for track and field were the stars of London 2012. (Photo: Nike)

London 2012 official sponsors and organizers made a big deal about ambush advertising, but Nike didn’t need sneaky ads to make a mark. Instead, the company put on the track shoes that no one can possibly miss. A brilliant marketing strategy by Nike, less costly than pumping money in Olympic ads, and more “in your face, Adidas” then any other brand on the field. In comparison, Puma was almost nonexistent.

Adidas forked over more than $150 million as an official London 2012 sponsor, but Nike got more marketing value than anyone else with its bright fluorescent footwear, and that, with ease. If shoes are not subject to official clothing-use requirements, after Nike’s little stunt you can expect the rules to change. But don’t expect the IOC to go for Nike’s throat.

Nike’s a major sponsor for Olympians around the world, and the public backlash resulting from potential sanctions against the company is something the IOC will not risk. Not yet, especially because Nike is set to be the official sponsor of the Olympic Games in 2016.

So far, Nike gets the gold for the smartest marketing strategy of a non-sponsor, and it has all the reasons to be proud. Shoes are a matter of personal choice for each athlete. Judging by the number of fluorescent footwear at London 2012, Nike kept its promise:

“With new Nike Volt technology,” the company reveals on a product description page, “innovative design and technology combine to help prepare athletes for their greatest performances.”

In 2016, expect Adidas and Puma to exploit the fine gray line governing footwear regulation at the Games. In the meanwhile, Nike deserves our kudos.

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