Why Nike + The Infatuation is a Fantastic Collab

It’s been said that Nike is a brand that happens to sell sneakers, and not the other way around. (I wish I could find the place where I read that.) With a brand that strong, I can’t imagine they take partnerships lightly.

So it was with more than a little curiosity that I read last month’s news of Nike’s tie-up with The Infatuation to promote Nike’s new Joyride running shoe through #runtoeeeeeats. (The Infatuation is known for its #eeeeeats hashtag and its generally savvy use of Instagram.)

My first interest was in seeing The Infatuation’s guides to where to eat after running, as that’s actually a real use case for me. And my favorite restaurant source didn’t disappoint in that regard.

But I also immediately wanted to know what the execution of this partnership would look like. After all, it’s between what most consumers know as a 55 year-old athletic apparel and footwear company and a 10 year-old restaurant recommendation site, app, and messaging service. The multi-platform, multi-venue, multi-product program I’ve now seen over several weeks appears to be the result of the proven creativity of The Infatuation team and the risk-taking for which Nike has become admired.

A marquis of the campaign is The Nike Joyride Café, a Williamsburg pop-up with its own star-studded culinary partners, running for three weekends. I stopped into last week’s pasta-themed cafe. By checking in with my Nike Run Club (NRC) app, I got Carbone’s penne a la vodka for $10 and a souvenir pin (“collect them all!”) and by checking in again at the retail space next door, I got a custom-flavored La Newyorkina popsicle and the chance to browse a surprisingly broad assortment of #runtoeeeeeats merch for sale.

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Both environments felt very Nike, with plenty of athletic inspiration and the Joyride gel bead motif that’s been running in their own retail stores. That said, while well-branded, the concepts didn’t meet a pristine standard one might expect from Nike: The lucite counters in the cafe were scratched on day two and the store had an unfinished pop-up feel in a way I’ve never experienced from Nike. Mostly, I respect the brand’s willingness to take some chances.

In addition to driving traffic to the cafe, The Infatuation has been promoting that NRC users who go to Nike Soho and show they’ve run and shared a 1+ mile activity in the app can get a freebie of the day. Today’s was a Maman cookie - again, custom-colored - against a backdrop of strong #runtoeeeeeats visual displays TG and merch. Certainly a reinforcement for introducing the app to more runners, while ensuring we see the first-floor takeover of the Joyride, which all of this is meant to promote.

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Finally, as I mentioned above, The Infatuation’s “where to eat after a run” guide series is really well done. It’s fun and useful and the printed versions distributed at the pop-up and Nike Soho are a nice takeaway.

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I should note that I learned about this partnership and all that’s been offered as part of it through The Infatuation’s e-mails and social presence. I haven’t seen anything about it via my roughly weekly use of the NRC app, Nike’s social feeds, or more than a couple of walks past Nike Soho. Given the life spans and brand awareness of the respective companies, it could be surprising to think Nike was so interested in The Infatuation as a traffic-driver. That’s where Nike’s own description of itself, which is broader than the one I gave above, seems relevant:

Nike delivers innovative products, experiences and services to inspire athletes. (Source: Nike.com)

So, check-check-check for Nike in achieving more of what it increasingly wants to do for customers, even though I would’ve liked to see more promotion of the partnership from the brand, and an incredible association and marketing boost for the team I admire at The Infatuation.