Nike turned the most uncomplicated sport in the world, running, into a data-driven social sport that gives users access to tons of data about their personal achievements. Runners can use this data to become better at running, resulting in a healthier lifestyle. In addition, Nike gives software developers open access to this data. This Nike+ Accelerator initiative encourages people to build companies to leverage the data generated from Nike+ digital products. This program is under way at this moment, and the 10 selected companies will demo their product on June 10, 2013.

Nike understands that its users want answers to simple sport related questions they have. Even more simply put, as Nike’s VP, digital sport Stefan Olander said Nike+: “[…] thrives on the fact that people want credit for their athletic activity”. As such the Nike+ platform gives runners answers to questions like:

  • How fast am I running and am I progressing?
  • When do I lose momentum when I am running?
  • How much calories do I burn while running?
  • How are my friends performing and what does it take to beat them?

big data insightsAs such they have made an engaging gamified platform where runners can interact with each other, share their data and learn from the insights derived from it. Since the launch in 2006, the platform has built a user base of 7 million runners. Think of all the data this generates and the insights it provides to Nike. A great example of how gamification is the friendly scout of big data.

Of course, building an engaging, beautiful and full-fledge gamified platform requires a lot of investments and dedication, but the rewards are enormous for Nike. With so many users interacting over a long time on different platforms while doing something they enjoy, of course is extremely valuable to the brand of Nike. With this approach of big data, Nike managed to change the behaviour of many consumers and in return receive great insights that can be used to improve the products offered.

But that is not it. Hannah Jones – VP Sustainable Business & Insights Nike – explains in an interview that Nike also wanted to understand the footprint of all materials used in the products made by Nike. They used to have 57,000 different materials in the products of Nike and there was no information at all about these materials because they came from vendors 2-3 steps removed from Nike.

In order to gain insights, they started to collect all the data related to those materials and do the life-cycle analysis on the materials. They brought all this information into a central database that has since helped their 600 designers to make much smarter decisions, thereby impacting business, sustainability, quality and cost.

Then Nike did a remarkable step, they decided to share that data with the rest of the industry so that the entire industry can start to populate the database as well as use it to make better decisions. The objective is to build a “vendor index”, containing details concerning every vendor including ratings and how trustworthy the vendor is. The key is to turn big data into smart data at the point where the persons in the supply chain that needs to use it, actually can use the data. A great example of how opening-up data sets can bring additional value to the entire supply chain.

For as large a company as Nike, it is of course difficult to move to an information-centric organisation at once. As in any company that starts with big data, Nike had to deal with different silos across the organisation that contains valuable data. However, in order to make anything useful out of the data it had to be identified and aggregated. According to Hannah Jones: “innovation lurks in the shadows of silos”. Therefore, they started to remove the silos between the data and identified the KPI and Key Data that they needed from across the entire company. From there on they were able to create a platform that would truly be valuable to Nike and its related companies.

Nike is a great example of how a traditional company can turn into an information-centric organisation and deliver great value to its customers. The venture division Digital Sport, which is part of the global strategy, is responsible for this achievement and in the future we will for sure see more of it. The bold move that Nike decided to make a few years back has paid off and now Nike is able to closely follow their users, customers, improve products, sustain a lively online community. All resulting in a tighter relationship and long term engagement with its customers.

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(image: lev radin /