Nikes Breaking2 initiative didnt quite reach its goal of breaking the two-hour marathon mark, but that hasnt stopped the companyfrom crowing about the results.
Nike has beenworking with three runners,Eliud Kipchoge, Lelisa Desisa and Zersenay Tadese, to break the two-hour threshold. It wasnt just giving them shoes a variation of the Zoom Vaporfly Elitebut also putting them through an array of tests andcreating race conditions (including choosing the right course, date and time) for optimal speed.
The result? Well, Kipchoge wasthe fastestof the three. With a time of 2 hours and 25 seconds, henot onlyhe beat his personal best of 2:03:05, he also came awfully closeto finishing under two hours. And thatstwo minutes faster than the world record, which is held by Dennis Kimetto at2:02:57.
And while Kipchoge didnt quite reach that official two-hour goal, Nike will get plenty of mileage from the event. It posted live video of the race on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube on Facebook, as I write this on Saturday evening, the livestream has been viewed 4.9 million times, and a shorter clip highlightingKipchoges finish has been viewed 4.2 million times. (Youll probably seeplenty more ads featuring that clip.)
It may seem kind of gross to talk about this achievement as if it was just a marketing campaign. But from Nikes perspective, that is what it was the company wasnt runningTwitter ads promoting the #Breaking2 hashtag all day on a whim.
You mightfeel even more cynical about the initiativewhen you realize that Nike paid the three runners to skip the London and Berlin marathons this year, and thatKipchoges time wont become the official world record, because the Breaking2 marathon used a non-compliant arrangement of runnerswho ran ahead to set thepace and reduce drag.
That doesnt mean everything wasdone for the sake of marketing. After all, if you want a lot of eyeballs on your race, you probably dont schedule it for 11:45pm Eastern on a Friday night, and you dont close it off from the general public. First and foremost, Nike seems to have been laser-focused on getting the fastest times possible and then promoting the heckout of the results.
To me, at least, Breaking2 seems tohave reacheda kind of marketing nirvana, something that brandspromise all the time without really delivering a great story that also happens to be part of an advertisingcampaign.
In fact, it was exciting enough thatat least one other shoe brand had to share its compliments on Twitter. (2017 is weird, you guys.) And hey, if any marketers want to replicate Nikes success, they just need a team of sports researchers, months of training time and the participation of the worlds top athletes.
Maybe my favorite partof this story is the fact that Michael Joyner of the Mayo Clinic had previouslypredicted that the best possible time for a man running a marathon is1:57:58. Today,Kipchoge came within threeminutes of thatphysiological limit, closer than anyones ever come before. If that feathelps Nike sell more shoes, Im totally okay with that.