How Nike Sells Dreams | How Manufacturers Can Become Famous Brands

By Adrian - May 02, 2015

How Nike Sells Dreams How Manufacturers Can Become Famous Brands

Nike is a near legendary global brand, but they're also a manufacturer.

When we think of Nike or other large global brands, do we first and foremost think of their products as we would typically with a manufacturer, or something else?

Most fans would tell you that Nike, to them, evokes feelings of sporting excellence, high quality, and being the best. But Nike is just one of many sportswear manufacturers who all make arguably very similar products.

So the question is: At what point do we stop being just a 'manufacturer,' and become a brand (if ever)?

In this blog I'm going to explore how manufacturers can become famous brands too by learning from Nike!

It's More Than Just A Product

A manufacturer makes products, and these could be anything from small, faceless, electrical components, to motor vehicle chasis.  

In the case of many of these manufacturers they never rise above being simply a supplier and not having any brand equity of their own as they're just a small piece of an overall puzzle.

Products may be great quality, but if they don't evoke any kind of image or feeling from their user, then the manufacturer in question will struggle to ever become a recognised brand.

Every manufacturer's main goal is to consistently create excellent products, that's a given; but read anything about brands and you'll start to hear some very different kinds of words and ideas about what makes a brand:

  • A brand creates excellent products all of the time
  • It is a promise to the customer
  • An idea that is evoked in the customer's mind when they see or hear your name
  • A unique selling point not shared by any other manufacturer

So we start to see that a brand is something which transcends just one product or product type and becomes something which causes people to feel a certain way.


Selling A Dream

If we go back to Nike for a moment, this is a manufacturer who started out with very humble beginnings where, absent an actual store, staff were selling training shoes from the trunks of their cars.

It is now a global mega-brand, grossing several tens of Billions of dollars per year.

What changed?

Firstly they made a unique product, creating soles using a waffle iron to give the classic Nike waffle pattern of grip. Although in the 60s and 70s there were competing shoes, none looked or felt like these. 

Secondly once they started to gain some traction in the market they marketed extremely well, which built enormous brand equity and got the firm on the map globally. In fact Nike's marketing has been so successful that they have even won two Emmy's (TV awards) for their advertisements:



You can see from most of these famous Nike TV ads that the sportswear itself actually doesn't take centre stage. Rather the viewer's emotions are manipulated, whether they be feelings of awe, envy, shame (if the elderly man can run, then surely I must get fit), or inspiration.

In this way Nike shows customers what they can achieve, and the fact that Nike produce the equipment they need to do so is a very subtle afterthought.

Who could forget their iconic slogan too:

nike just do it slogan

 Image courtesy of

Thirdly, Nike cemented its reputation as a major player in the public mind by consistently sponsoring major sports teams, college teams, and star athletes.

One of the most obvious examples is Michael Jordan who has spawned his own incredibly popular sub-brand of Nike, Air Jordan:

nike air jordan

But the list of Nike-sponsored athletes is enormous, including such luminaries as:

  • LeBron James
  • Carl Lewis
  • Cristiano Ronaldo
  • Rory McIlroy
  • Tiger Woods
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Maria Sharapova
  • Derek Jeter
  • Rafael Nadal

There are many more of course, but the point is that Nike only tend to sponsor 'the best,' or athletes who have reached legendary status. This all adds to their brand equity as being the best of breed.

Now customers who choose Nike know that they're buying into brand which offers the best equipment by the best manufacturer, for people who strive to be the best.

In effect, they're selling them a dream.


How Does Any Manufacturer 'Copy' Nike?

Using Nike as a blueprint for how manufacturers can become famous brands is no bad thing, as we should all aspire to be the best we can be.

Whilst Nike have recently been able to spend many Millions on marketing and celebrity athlete endorsements, we mustn't focus on this 'Hollywood' element of Nike's business too much, however attractive it may be.

Most manufacturers looking to become famous brands don't have this kind of money to market their products, but there are things that we can learn from Nike:

  • We're able to produce consistently high quality products
  • Our products can fulfill an exact customer need
  • We can market a lot more cheaply and effectively than Nike in its early days

As a manufacturer it's your duty to produce the best quality products as you're able to, as that is the role of a manufacturer. I'll assume that you're doing this.

However 'marketing' can be a bit of a dirty word. This is something that other companies do, and not something that applies to you as you're 'just a manufacturer' and not a fancy marketing agency.

However things have changed between the 60s, when Nike was starting out, and now.

As a manufacturer you can market yourself and build brand equity without having to spend the Millions that Nike has spent, even if you're only small right now.

The difference to how manufacturers can become famous brands today is the internet.

Thirty or forty years ago Nike couldn't do the following:

  • Build an interesting an informative website that gives interested customers plenty of information which could help them
  • Write regular blogs which shared solutions to problems
  • Be active on social media to become well-known as a powerful brand in their sector

The internet didn't exist!

But you can take advantage of these, and if you do English keyword research, you'll be able to create content and web pages which will be found by the right people who are looking for your products.

So for today's would-be famous brands marketing online is a must! With the right content and the right keywords you can benefit from a much greater reach than a young Nike ever had, and so couple this with a consistent and high quality product and you can start to build a powerful brand too.



Not Sure How To Start Marketing Online?

At Oxygen 2.0 we are dedicated to helping Chinese manufacturers become well-known brands in overseas markets! Click below to get your free website, brand and marketing assessment so we can help you understand where you're currently succeeding,and where you may like to make some changes!

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About the Author


Adrian is experienced in all things inbound marketing, social media, blogging, and SEO. With almost a decade of working with Chinese companies, he is well placed to share information which helps Chinese manufacturers go global.