Wrapping Your Mind Around Brand Architecture – A Nike Case Study
Updated: May 2
It’s alright to be Goliath, but always act like David. ―Phil Knight
Building a brand is a complex and challenging endeavor, but managing a brand's structure and continuity with multiple sub-brands can be even more daunting.
That's where understanding brand architecture comes in. At its core, brand architecture refers to the relationship between a parent brand and its sub-brands, and how each sub-brand fits into the overall brand strategy.
In today's highly competitive business landscape, it's not enough to simply have a strong parent brand. To achieve sustained success, companies must develop a brand architecture strategy that supports the parent brand's macro vision while also differentiating each sub-brand and targeting specific customer segments.
Nike, one of the world's most recognizable brands, is a perfect example of effective brand architecture. Their vision statement, "To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world," serves as the ultimate macro brand mission.
By examining Nike's sub-brands, such as Nike SB, Jordan, and Nike Free, we can see how each sub-brand has a unique identity that resonates with its core customer while still supporting the parent brand's overall vision.
Through this article, we will dive deeper into Nike's brand architecture and explore how the company's sub-brands differ from one another while still contributing to the overarching brand strategy.
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BRAND ARCHITECTURE: NIKE SB
Nike SB is a sub-brand of Nike that was launched in 2002, and it stands for Skateboarding.
Nike SB is a great example of how a brand can effectively segment its products to cater to different consumers' needs.
With a unique vibe that distinguishes it from the other sub-brands such as Air Jordan and Nike Free. Free-living and alternative. It embodies the culture of west coast skateboard life and the youth that support it.
The brand has everything from footwear, clothing, a signature line, accessories and even a kids line that speaks to the skateboard culture.
Nike SB has a loyal following that identifies with its free-living and alternative lifestyle. They even have their social media platforms that feature athletes within this arena, the fashion, and the culture that skateboarding has come to embody.
What ties Nike SB back to its parent brand is the dynamic nature of its content that shouts innovation.
Despite the brand targeting a different market segment, it still transmits that same Nike energy.
This approach allows Nike to diversify its offerings while maintaining a consistent brand image across its sub-brands. By doing so, Nike can appeal to different consumer groups without diluting its brand equity.
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BRAND ARCHITECTURE: JORDAN BRAND
The Jordan brand is an iconic name that is synonymous with high-fashion athleisure and performance apparel.
This brand has evolved over the years, starting with a gamble taken by Sunny Vicaro in the 1980s when he allocated Nike's entire $2 million endorsement budget on the back of Michael Jordan.
As we all know, Michael Jordan is a legendary figure and one of the most influential athletes in the world. He has built a brand that is renowned for its quality, style, and performance.
The Jordan products are not just clothing or shoes, they are considered art within their circles and attract top athletes and music producers.
Unlike Nike SB, the Jordan brand has a more sophisticated and upscale appeal, attracting consumers who appreciate high-end fashion and sportswear. But despite the difference in the target audience, the brand continues to produce innovative products that appeal to both the fashion-conscious and performance-driven.
Nike has done such a good job with their branding that many customers that identify with more than one of its sub-brands likely feel a higher level of affinity towards the brand as a whole.
The success of the Jordan brand is a testament to this strategy, as it has become one of the world's most valuable brands.
BRAND ARCHITECTURE: NIKE FREE
Within Nike’s overall brand architecture, they also have the Nike Free brand.
Aimed towards the runners of the world, this brand and product line focuses on a very different segment than Nike SB or Jordan.
With a spirit built around natural movement and how it relates to running and training, the campaigns they run focus on freedom and functionality for athletes.
As you can tell, there is more of a focus on performance and training in the Nike Free universe.
Nike's commitment to performance is reflected in the design and production of their footwear. The company is supplied by 122 footwear factories located in 12 countries, each dedicated to delivering high-quality products that meet the needs of athletes worldwide.
Nike Free is no exception, with shoes that are designed to provide the support, comfort, and natural movement needed for runners to perform at their best.
Whether you're a professional athlete, an aspiring runner, or someone who values comfort and performance in their athletic footwear, Nike Free offers a unique brand experience that is focused on delivering innovative products designed to meet the needs of runners worldwide.
BRAND ARCHITECTURE: NIKELAB
Another sub-brand that is important to understand in Nike’s brand architecture is NikeLab. NikeLab is an exclusive brand that focuses on innovation and design.
It is a collaboration between Nike and leading designers, stylists, and artists from around the world, who work together to create limited-edition products that are available in select locations around the world.
NikeLab products are designed with premium materials and are often handcrafted to ensure the highest level of quality.
The brand is known for its unique and experimental designs, often exploring new ways to incorporate technology into fashion and performance wear.
NikeLab has collaborated with a range of designers and artists, including Riccardo Tisci, Virgil Abloh, and Jun Takahashi.
One of their most successful collaborations was with the Italian luxury fashion brand Stone Island, which resulted in a collection of highly sought-after garments that incorporated advanced fabrics and construction techniques.
NikeLab products are not widely available, and the brand maintains an air of exclusivity around its releases. This approach has helped to create a strong following among sneaker enthusiasts and fashion-forward consumers who value limited edition products and cutting-edge design.
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