Whilst sneakers and rare drops have been aimed at people of all ages and backgrounds over the past decade, Nike is hoping that its new zine targeted specifically at teenage girls will help them express themselves, learn from mentors their age, explore new sports and new styles at the same time.
The website in question, with the rather utilitarian title of Nike Teens, is produced in combination with marketing agency and brand innovators R/GA as a digital space dedicated to teenagers.
The aim, according to R/GA, was to create a space that “empowers” teenage girls to develop a “lifetime relationship” with not only Nike themselves but also sport in general, with the help of relatable teen influencers spotlighted throughout the online zine.
The result is exceptionally similar in tone to other teen-focused websites such as Teen Vogue, which combines fashion tips, health advice and advertorial content with a strong tone of self-empowerment, inclusion and authenticity.
Alongside articles from Nike-sponsored influencers such as teenage runner Issey Kyson and freestyle dancer Fleur Zwartkruis, there are articles about how to synchronise training regimens around the menstrual cycle to improve performance and how to reduce breast pain when training.
All of this is built around a Corporate Memphis art style, lots of dynamic images and video, and a lot of links to “shop the fit”, ultimately stopping all but the least discerning from feeling like they are being advertised to at every turn.
Some articles, such as the spotlight articles of the two influencers, are more innocuous, limiting the relentless marketing to a call-to-action button at the end and every picture having their cover stars draped head-to-toe in Nike branded clothes.
This is also found in the main video series on the site, You Got This, a series of short documentaries about young female athletes who faced adversity and won. A similar article about seeking expression through dance also works very well with minimally intrusive branding.
Other parts, such as trending products, fit guides, shoe finders and an article showcasing the top shoes for street dancing, are far more overt in their advertising in a way that is far more clear to anyone tapping on an article.
The focus is as much on apparel as it is on footwear, but there are several articles and a footwear finder app designed to help girls find the right shoes for them.
It will remain to be seen whether Nike Teens, simple title and everything, is a success or not. The first batch of articles set a strong tone of self-empowerment and if it does become a social media success, that would translate to wider sales of sneakers.
With teenagers one of the demographics most focused on self-expression, this could take them away from the conventional styles and designs found on Nike Teens and towards rarer, more expressive sneakers found only through resellers.
Ultimately, the message being sent, whether it is authentically meant or an example of cause marketing, is one that reaches the heart of why people wear unique designer sneakers in the first place.
Compared to other forms of footwear obsessed with a uniform style, sneakers are wildly expressive and can be effectively any colour, any style and any design.