Nike aims phones at the sky in search for sneaker-shaped AR cloud


  • Nike is urging Brazilians to point their smartphones at the sky to unlock exclusive content as part of the mobile campaign for its Air Max 2090 sneakers. The sportswear giant set up a microsite that customers need to visit before raising their phones upward to see an augmented reality (AR) cloud in the shape of an Air Max sneaker, per an announcement shared with sister publication Mobile Marketer.
  • After finding the AR cloud, mobiles users can unlock a new song and music video from hip hop artist Djonga, along with interviews, tracks and videos from other artists such as McSofia. Desktop users can scan a website QR code with their smartphones to open the mobile website, which asks for permission to access a smartphone camera.
  • Mobile users can unlock the experience without leaving home as the coronavirus pandemic keeps people indoors. Nike worked with WPP’s AKQA São Paulo agency to create the AR experience, per the announcement.


Nike’s AR experience aims to reach Brazilian customers who are stuck at home during the pandemic, providing them with access to exclusive content they can enjoy on their mobile phones while also promoting its latest Air Max sneakers. The AR experience is accessible on a mobile website, removing the extra step of downloading an app that would take up more smartphone memory and cellular data for people who don’t have a Wi-Fi connection.

“For times like this, people are eager for something different. But most of the brands remain doing the same advertisement formula and delivering content in the same way as always,” said Luiza Baffa, AKQA strategy and business innovation director, in an emailed response to Mobile Marketer’s questions.

“So we understood that we should surprise the consumer. How can we deliver content in a way that also responded to people’s expectation on innovation and newness? And that was how the idea came. The interaction changes the way of how people connect and relate themselves with the content.”

The AR experience is a twist on last year’s mobile-based campaign that won a Grand Prix award at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Nike and AKQA last year enlisted artists to spray-paint Air Max shoes on graffiti throughout São Paulo. Mobile users whose geolocations showed that they had visited the graffiti artworks had a chance to buy the exclusive shoes. Nike experienced a 22% lift in website visits and a 32% gain in Air Max sales while reaching more than 80 million people on social media, Ad Age reported.

While last year’s campaign urged people to venture outside of their homes, this year’s activation lets them stay indoors during the pandemic. It’s another sign of how Nike has adjusted its marketing efforts after the health crisis forced many professional sports leagues to suspend operations or delay their regular seasons. In March, Nike’s “Play inside, play for the world” campaign let mobile users in the U.S. access its exercise and training apps for free while being stuck at home.

Direct selling channels have become more important to Nike during the pandemic, which has affected the company on a global scale. Nike reported higher quarterly revenue as direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales rose 13% and digital sales surged by 36%, partly offsetting the effects of temporary store closures in countries like China. The effects of the health crisis on its U.S. operations will be more evident when the company reports results for the current quarter next month. U.S. clothing store sales plunged in March, according to retail sales data collected by the Census Bureau, and are likely to show steep drops for April as the first full month of lockdowns in the U.S. The data for May may mark a key turning point toward recovery as cities and states lift restrictions on retailers.

Nike has run a variety of mobile-based campaigns to connect with younger consumers who are heavy users of social media and use their smartphones to consume content. The company last year sponsored its first shoppable Snapchat Lens for apparel in a campaign around the U.S. Soccer Women’s National Team. Before that, Nike was the first brand to sell a product directly through Snapchat with a special pre-release promotion that sold out in 23 minutes at an exclusive event during the NBA All-Star Game.