Instagram is quickly becoming Nike’s go-to social network. The brand uploaded over a third of its social content to its global @nike and London @nikelondon Instagram accounts last year, while more than half went to Twitter and 13 percent went to Facebook, according to social analytics firm Share Creative.
People are talking about the brand on Instagram, regardless of whether it has an active presence there. In the U.K. in 2017, for example, most Nike mentions from fans (55 percent) happened on Instagram, where just 35 percent of the brand’s own content was uploaded to the @nike and @nikelondon accounts, revealed Share Creative.
Nike’s social buzz isn’t reliant on its own communications, said Laura Daniells, analyst at Share Creative. “Fans want to share their love for the brand and do so regardless of Nike’s owned activity.”
As loved as Nike is, the brand is the 16th-most-liked Instagram account globally. But that consumer love is ebbing away, at least on Instagram. Between May and December 2016, the average number of likes and comments per month on the @nike Instagram account hit around 2.4 million, according to Socialbakers. Over the same period in 2017, the average number of monthly likes and comments was 1.3 million.
People seem to like fitness content on Instagram, according to Share Creative. The top-performing posts in the U.K. on the @nike and @nikelondon accounts last year were those that shared motivating quotes with ordinary and relatable people rather than celebrities, appealing to a more “niche fan base,” said Daniells. Nearly all (95 percent) of the posts from fans in the U.K. to the global and local accounts mention #fitness, per Share Creative.
Nike’s decision to post less and focus more on its fitness-related posts may have partly contributed to its lack of resonance on Instagram beyond the fitness category last year. The brand posted 50 times on the @nike Instagram page between May and December 2016, but it posted 39 times over the same period in 2017, according to Socialbakers.
According to YouGov BrandIndex, Adidas narrowly leads Nike in Impression score — which measures whether someone has a positive or negative impression of a particular brand — in the U.K., with Adidas at 37 points and Nike at 36 points.
With so little separation between the brands, product choice may depend on an individual’s perception of the specific product’s quality or value, said Amelia Brophy, head of data products at YouGov. Of course, metrics can vary across the brands’ diverse product range, Brophy added, but generally speaking, Adidas is seen as being kinder to the purse strings.
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Alan Bryant, a strategist at youth agency Livity, said Nike has let its “youth culture game slip,” and, in turn, its social engagement is suffering in key areas. It has been clear in sneaker culture and in “youth culture generally that Adidas has made huge inroads into Nike’s historical ownership of this area,” he added.
Just one of the top six engaging posts on the @nike Instagram account between May and December 2017 used an influencer to promote a sneaker, according to Socialbakers. That post featured rapper Kendrick Lamar for the relaunch of Nike’s retro classic Cortez shoe. Despite Lamar’s inclusion, a post promoting soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo was twice as engaging as the one for the Cortez, per Socialbakers.
Nike still holds around a 50 percent market share in the U.S. market, but Adidas surpassed Nike’s Air Jordan brand last September to become the No. 2 shoe brand there behind Nike as a whole. In the U.S., Nike has a lead over its rival in Impression score; Nike has 47 points, while Adidas has 41, per YouGov BrandIndex. Among 18- to 34-year-olds, the scores are higher, but Nike (56) still has the advantage over Adidas (51).
It would be wrong to call Nike’s social media strategy a failure, argued Devran Karaca, co-founder of Kyra TV, which works with Nike-owned Converse. “What Nike did with [designer] Virgil Abloh last year for the Off-White x Nike The Ten series completely revolutionized marketing around sneakers. This was arguably the biggest trainer release of 2017 and has blown the door wide open for the future of collaborations and a post-modern approach to design,” he said. “If Nike had a quiet year last year, then it probably means that we will be seeing some huge moves from them in 2018.”