If you want to learn how to develop new revenue generating customer relationships, check out the strategic Nike+ iPod alliance.

Mark Parker phoned Steve Jobs with an idea designed to eliminate the loneliness of the long distance runner. The Nike CEO wanted his running shoes to communicate performance intelligence to runners in real time. The Apple CEO seized the opportunity by folding Parker's digitally informed athlete into the iPod platform, observing that 50% of the 50 million people who became iPod owners last year used the device during a workout. With each iPod sold generating an average of three to four accessory purchases, $1 billion in ancillary earnings, the Nike connection appeared to be a good fit.


The executives called upon their respective tech and branding teams to provide an integrated lifestyle management solution. They would develop a package of shoes, data, music, and apparel designed for a core audience dedicated to an active workout regimen.

The two corporations have this in common: They both define their core markets by lifestyle. The Oregon-based Nike brand defines its global market as the "sport culture." Apple's core target audience is best defined as the "creativity culture." The overlapping of sport and creative interests underlies the lifestyle + technology profile their partnership is founded upon.

After 18 months of collaborative development, Parker and Jobs announced the result of their alliance—the impending release of the Nike+ iPod offering, revealing with it a brilliant marketing plan designed to...

  1. Attract exceptional attention by synergizing both brand values into a fusion brand.

  2. Respond to a well-defined audience's desire for experiential lifestyle support, when and where they choose.

  3. Develop long-term goodwill and consumer loyalty by continuously cultivating the brand-lifestyle relationship with core enthusiast communities.

  4. Expand the level of consumer interactivity with the brand via the Internet.

Meaningful Innovation

In late May, Nike and Apple unveiled their brand partnership at a New York event, with Parker and Jobs flanked by seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong and marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe.

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Harvey Kraft is managing partner of Partner | M (partnershipsmedia.com), a relationship marketing consultancy specializing in executive support for business partnering initiatives. Contact him at harvey@partnershipsmedia.com.