For the seventh year in a row, Brand Finance has named Nike the top sports brand in the world.
Brand Finance evaluates each brand’s value based on its market share and brand identity and perception. Despite dropping 13 percent in value in 2021, Nike remains at the forefront of innovation, making significant leaps in shoe and fabric technology. Take the 2019 world marathon—31 out of 36 athletes on the podium sported Nike Vaporflys.
This case study will examine Nike, the world’s top sports brand, its history, values, and how its mission of innovation and inspiration have created deep-rooted ties in individuals of all ages globally, ultimately showcasing how the key to landing sponsorships with the richest sports brands is by creating value.
Nike’s Mission Statement—And What it Really Means
Nike’s vision as a sports brand is “to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”
And its mission statement is to “do everything possible to expand human potential. We do that by creating groundbreaking sport innovations, by making our products more sustainable, by building a creative and diverse global team, and by making a positive impact in communities where we live and work.”
There are two stand-out terms here—inspiration and innovation.
Inspiration—as a consumer company and one of the richest sports brands in the world, Nike has learned how to leverage marketing to generate and stimulate demand in the industry. This is at the core of the Nike business model.
Furthermore, Nike spends billions of dollars each year to boost market popularity, brand value, and demand for its products.
Nike’s popular television ads are an excellent example of its ability to connect with its target market, create emotional connections, and maintain its popularity as the biggest sportswear brand and one of the richest sports brands in the world.
Human connection through storytelling is the foundation of inspirational marketing for any sports brand. It can communicate players’ backstories, the iconic history of teams, the legacy of a coach, and showcase brand identity. Not to mention, it resonates in fans’ minds, ultimately increasing recognition of top sports brands in the world and driving sales for sports apparel, running shoes, lifestyle footwear, and sportswear.
The 2021 Nike campaign, We Play Real, is an excellent example of inspiration. The sportswear brands marketing campaign recognizes black women in athletics and includes incredible moments for black female athletes across the sports brand market.
The music is inspiring, the visuals are captivating, and the messaging is clear—”it’s not just magic, they are the real thing.” This is inspirational marketing at its finest. And the goosebumps the viewer gets in the video’s final moments say it all.
Innovation—Groundbreaking Sports Innovations
Innovation—Nike positions itself as an innovative company willing to innovate its products repeatedly. This is another critical element as innovation indicates the substitution of the old for the new. Thus it improves its world sales year after year.
This is obvious—Nike dominates the fashion world and is one of the biggest brands in the world on the international market.
It is the official sponsor of tennis players and football clubs, such as Real Madrid. It boasts a sneaker deal with many individual athletes, such as Stephen Curry and Kevin Plank, and celebrities, such as Kanye West. Jordan Brand is an exclusive co-branded partner of Nike with their Air Jordan brand, and Nike even claimed victory as the top sportswear brand at the latest Fifa World Cup despite not being an official sponsor.
If that’s not representative of a global leader in sportswear, what is?
Nike’s global footprint as an innovator is apparent. It paved the way for other brands in the world, such as American company Champion brand, popular brand New Balance, and leading sports brand Columbia Sportswear, with its’ sports apparel and sports shoes. It’s also gained market popularity amongst fashion lifestyle brands in the world, such as Off-White, with its unique take on athleisure apparel, and has even made an appearance at New York Fashion Week.
The Generation of Demand
The current 18-35 age group is considered to be the generation of demand. From sports equipment to top sports brands, sports apparel, footwear, apparel, and even bulky sneakers, we want it all.
The top brands in the world are tapping into athleisure and lifestyle apparel to match the world market demand. The best sports brands in the world have to match Nike in its efforts to innovate, innovate, innovate. This includes sports brands globally, such as Columbia Sportswear, New Balance, Italian brand Gucci, and Adidas. Even Puma owes a lot of its innovation and sportswear and footwear development to Nike.
This demand also makes Nike one of the biggest company sports sponsors of athletes and teams.
How Athletes and Other Sports Brands Garner Sponsorships
To understand the inner-workings of sponsorships, it’s helpful to review a breakdown of how a sportswear or footwear company values its teams and athletes around the world.
Simply put, an athlete with 5K followers aren’t typically paid for sponsorship deals; 5-10K followers typically garner in the mid-four figures; 10-50K can leverage into the high-four or low-five figures. Deals of 50k and above vary depending on the specific sponsor and athlete.
In short, the best way to land sponsorships with a big company, such as Nike, is to partner with an agency to develop your brand identity and increase your brand value via a robust social media following.
Nike’s Business Model
Nike’s business model as one of the top sports brands in the world is to continually develop their sporting apparel, sportswear wardrobe, footwear, and sportswear by partnering with the best and most authentic athletes in the business.
The sportswear company is notably transparent about its stance on social issues and is well-known for its bold and liberal stance. Many of the top sports brands in the world choose to stay silent, but not Nike.Nike’s ability to stand up for what the company believes while also continuing to innovate its sportswear and inspire its audience is what makes it one of the top sports brands to be reckoned with.
Nike’s audience is interesting in that it’s both broad and niche. It is one of the richest sports brands and sportswear companies because of its multiple brand voices.
Simply—Nike speaks to a multitude of individuals. This individual could be a signature athlete, amateur, or a non-athlete and lifestyle fan. By developing its sportswear brand audience as such, it has become timeless and one of the richest sports brands in history.
As far as sportswear brands are concerned, consistency is critical. Consistency equals success. Sports brands can’t expect to develop a robust social following without having a clear brand identity, consistency in engagement, vision, and visual and written messaging.
For example, take French sportswear brand Le Coq Sportif or Italian sportswear brand Fila. Both sportswear brands are considered the richest sports brands in their respective country. They’ve provided consistent brand messaging, invested time and effort into their sports company and social following, and marked themselves as icons in the sports world.
The Key to Landing Sponsorships is to Create More Value
Nike is considered one of the biggest sportswear brands in the world. Its authentic and transparent approach to marketing and focus on company innovation, growth, and development makes it one of the most attractive sports brands for athlete sponsorship.
The key to landing the best sponsorships with the richest sports brands is to create immense value. Develop a robust social following online, network with the best sports brands, and continue to work on your personal company.
It is an excellent idea to partner with a sports marketing agency and company that understands sports brands and the sports world—one with experience working with athletes to accomplish each of these components.
Remember, the best sports brands want to develop mutually beneficial relationships. You must create value and showcase this on your social platforms, website, and print collateral. By doing this, you’ll set yourself up for the best chance of success at landing a sponsorship with a sports brand company.