JDK Takes It to the Rink for Nike Hockey

Nike Hockey targets young players and fans with a campaign from Jager di Paola Kemp Design that incorporates interviews with participants in ads and promotional ‘zines.

An agency team traveled around North America to interview players, coaches and parents. Interviews were dubbed the “progression sessions” to build on what the shop intended to be an innovative way to reach the target audience. The transcripts, as well as photographs of players, were used to compile the ‘zines, which are available at the rinks, sporting-goods stores and other locations where the information was gathered.

Copy in one ‘zine reads, “I’m 20 years old. … I started playing when I was 9 years old. … My first year of junior hockey was five years ago when I was 15. At this point, I guess hockey is really what brought me through school and everything. … So it’s really a big part of my life now.” A photo of the speaker, Jon Hom, appears next to this “featured interview.”

“A key initiative was to position youth as the face of the brand,” said Duke Stump, vp, brand management at Nike Hockey in Greenland, N.H. “In order to do that, we felt that we had to do a full immersion on a core consumer level, and have a one-on-one dialogue with the kids and have them get to know us as well as we got to know them.”

Burlington, Vt.-based JDK designed print ads, a Web site and the ‘zine targeting ages 11-21. The work launches this month.

The interviews are also used in a print ad headlined, “The progression sessions,” which shows an unsmiling young man wearing a ski cap. Copy reads, “Listen to me. The game needs to open up, it needs to flow. The red line should not exist. … It’s that simple.” The execution is in black-and-white, except for the Nike swoosh and the copy, which are red.

“Kids today [are] hungry for information and want to have a different relationship with brands,” said Stump. “[This is] our attempt to have an authentic and honest dialogue with them.”

Building direct relationships makes sense for the brand and the audience, said Chip Rives, CEO of Sports & Entertainment Matters in Boston.

“They are doing it in a nontraditional way—all marketers are now looking for nontraditional ways to reach out and touch their core audience,” Rives said. “They’re also doing it in an authentic way that will resonate with the kids they are trying to reach.”

JDK plans to build on the campaign for a number of years. “This is not meant to be a single campaign. It’s the heart and soul of Nike Hockey’s effort,” said Steve Farrar, design director. “We envision this continuing—our goal is taking it all the way to the 2006 Olympics.”

Nike Hockey is a subsidiary of Bauer Nike Hockey. JDK’s effort last year for the brand consisted of two print campaigns—one for Nike Quest, one for Bauer—that featured NHL stars Mario Lemieux and Eric Lindros.

One black-and-white execution for Quest showed a photograph of Lemieux, along with the headline “Why” and the swoosh logo. The copy reads, “Because I wasn’t happy with the view from the owner’s box.”

Nike Hockey markets products such as the Nike Quest Apollo hockey stick, the Nike Quest V-12 skate and the Tuuk Lightspeed Holder and Perf Runner (a skate-blade holder).

The brand’s competitors include The Hockey Co., Easton, Vaughn, Graf and Mission.