If you’ve ever interviewed for a marketing position, chances are you may have been asked the classic question: “What is a brand that you believe does a great job when it comes to marketing?”

While there are thousands of brands that fit the bill, there’s one that often comes to mind: Nike. A brand so powerful, the very name means victory. A brand whose logo is so iconic that it some consider it the #1 most recognized symbol in the world and communicates motion even when it’s perfectly still. Needless to say, Nike is one of the greatest contemporary brands in commerce but does that greatness extend to their rewards program?

A screenshot of the Nike Membership explainer page with 2 people running in a street and text "Where All Athletes Belong."
A screenshot of the Nike Membership explainer page.

The Nike Membership rewards program is an interesting example of a modern twist on the classic rewards program, but even Nike has some pros and cons. In order to get a better idea of what this program looks like, I’ve taken a run at breaking down the pluses and minuses of what Nike Membership has to offer.  So, like Nike would say, let’s just do it.

Where Nike Membership scores

The Nike Membership rewards program has a lot going for it. Just like in the rest of the Nike experience, their branding is an incredibly strong asset, but the success of their program goes beyond the look and feel of the site. With Nike Membership, Nike has put together a rewards system that any athlete will find valuable.

Nike has rewards designed by athletes for athletes

One of the first things we noticed about the Nike Membership rewards program was their rewards portfolio. Most brands only offer their customers a combination of discounts and other financial incentives, but Nike’s focus is on delighting their customers through highly targeted experiential rewards.

A screenshot of Nike Partnership and Events page with an image of someone designing a black shoe with white marker.
A screenshot of the Nike Partnerships and Events page for members. 

That’s not to say Nike Membership doesn’t offer any transactional rewards. Nike Membership does offer its members free shipping on all orders and the ability to try any product for  60 days with a “no questions asked, no receipts needed” return policy.  However, at the end of the day those perks seem trivial when compared to the main event.

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Nike Membership offers its members access to special Nike events where they can meet and train with other members of the Nike community.  Nike members get early access to new training gear in the Member Shop and Nike experts who can help them make purchase decisions and discuss training best practices.

These (among other) Nike Membership experiential rewards are a fantastic example of what it means to truly understand your customers. Nike’s customers are motivated by the ethos of authentic athletic performance, and the benefits of the Nike Membership program speak to that in volumes. By matching their rewards to their customers’ values they’ve created a rewards program that these athletes actually want to be a part of because it caters to their needs and mirrors their interests.

A screenshot of the Nike Experts page with an image of 2 people smiling in front of a white background wearing Nike and text reading "Product Advice From Nike Experts".
A screenshot of the Nike Experts page. 

When customers shop at Nike, they’re buying more than a running shoe or a pair of shorts. Nike customers are buying into everything the brand stands for, the idea of pushing for better, the spirit of friendly competition, and the value of sweat. When you read through the rewards in the Nike Membership program, it’s clear that the people who designed them understand these values too.

Nike Membership is  a beautifully (and consistently) branded rewards program

Nike is no stranger to aesthetic expertise. Their stores are decorated with perfect action shots of athletes that look ready to run right out of the picture and straight into a marathon. This visual acuity is mirrored in the Nike site, with words and images that are sure to excite the athlete in all of us.

A screenshot of the Nike Membership Benefits page with 3 images. An image of an athlete celebrating with text underneath reading "Member Products", a person with blond hair dressed in Nike clothing with text underneath reading "Nike By You", and a white Nike sneaker with text underneath reading "Member Rewards".
A screenshot of Nike Member Benefits including Member Products, Nike By You, and Member Rewards. 

Apart from being visually stimulating, the branding on the Nike Membership site manages to accomplish another important task: it achieves an admirable level of consistency with the rest of the Nike experience. From the name of the program to the images that help explain its features, the Nike brand is front and center through it all. The familiar swoosh and motivational message lets Nike members know that this program is a natural extension of the Nike brand and therefore the Nike promise.

Images from 8 different Nike advertisements for the Nike Membership with images of shoes, athletes, and graphics.
Various Nike advertisements for the Nike Membership program from Nike News

Beautiful and consistent branding goes a long way in getting customers to engage with a rewards program. At first glance, many customers feel like joining a rewards program is more hassle than it’s worth. Intentional branding can help them overcome that perception and share some of the love they already feel for the rest of your brand experience with your rewards program.

As Nike lovers ourselves, exploring the Nike Membership program felt exciting and yet familiar - the perfect combination for a new experience by a familiar brand.

Nike Membership is a mobile focused customer experience

We’ve discussed the importance of designing a customer experience optimized for mobile in the past, and Nike Membership is the perfect example of why. Their program doesn’t just take a mobile friendly approach- it celebrates it.

A screenshot from the Nike App explainer page with an iPhone showing a QR code linking to the Nike App, and images of 2 people wearing Nike clothing exercising in the background.
A screenshot of the Nike App explainer page. 

The Nike Membership flourishes on mobile devices with select images and formatting that plays to the handheld screens. For most brands, having a site that is mobile optimized would be enough of a leg up, but Nike pushes their mobile experience even further.

Nike members can enjoy four separate mobile apps that can enhance their use of the product. The Nike App, Nike Training Club, Nike Run Club, and SNKRS are all available for Nike customers to track their activity, get new workouts, and stay up to date on all of the latest gear.

A screenshot of 3 images side by side for 3 of Nike Apps. The first image is a person wearing a Nike unitard stretching with the Nike Training Club icon on top. The second image is several athletes running outdoors with the Nike Running Club icon on top. The final image is a person sitting in a car wearing Nike sneakers with the SNKRS icon on top.
A screenshot of 3 other Nike apps including Nike Training Club, Nike Run Club, and SNKRS.

The Nike Membership program isn’t just accessible on mobile, it actually opens up entirely new experiences for customers on their phones.  Nike’s commitment to their mobile experience means that Nike customers can take the brand whenever and wherever they go. As more and more experiences shift from our desktops to our handheld devices, mobile accessibility has become something of a necessity, and the Nike apps demonstrate that this is something Nike definitely understands.

Where Nike Membership gets benched

Even the best rewards programs have their shortcomings, and Nike Membership is no different. There are several program elements that trip up an otherwise awesome customer experience, but if Nike can tie up these loose ends their program will be off to the races!

Nike Membership doesn’t provide opportunities for re-engagement

As we discussed earlier, the Nike Membership program has some pretty sweet perks. The only problem is, these perks come on an all or nothing basis. As soon as you’re a Nike member you receive all of the awesome benefits that come with the program, with no additional  engagement to look forward to.

Contemporary rewards programs are designed for the long haul and come with opportunities for re-engagement.

Most contemporary rewards programs are designed with the long term in mind, and because of this these programs strive, above all else, for continued engagement. A points program gives points for every purchase, a VIP program keeps customers motivated to gain and maintain their status, and referral programs reward customers for each successful referral. These programs are designed to keep customers engaged and interacting with the brand.

This is where the Nike Membership program falls short. Since all of the rewards are available instantly, there aren’t any re-engagement mechanics to stimulate interest over time. This can lead to customers becoming disinterested over time and eventually disengaging from the program. A rewards program should never be seen as a set it and forget it tool.

Motivation is just one part of rewards psychology.
Want to learn the other 2?

While this may seem like a trivial issue, giving customers something to look forward to is a key component of motivation. Even as loyalty program enthusiasts, we have gotten bored with programs that fail to re-engage us over time. The nature of the fitness industry gives Nike a natural avenue for re-engagement. They could tie additional perks to maintaining an active lifestyle which could be easily tracked through their mobile apps. Speaking of those apps...

Nike+ has too many separate apps

We know we praised Nike’s mobile engagement strategy earlier, and a big part of that was because of their mobile applications, but we need to address the other side of that coin. You see one of the program’s strengths is actually hiding one of its weaknesses: Nike Membership has too many apps.

Before you call us hypocrites, allow us to explain: while we believe that each of the apps are highly valuable, Nike dilutes their impact by separating them. It is the separation of this value into multiple different applications that creates the issue.

Today’s customers are in a constant state of app overload which makes them hesitant to download new apps.

While customers are getting increasingly more mobile with their experiences, today’s devices haven’t quite caught up to their desires. Phones only have so much memory for applications, and there are a lot of other apps already vying for that space. With this in mind, many customers are weary  to download new apps, which means new applications need to show substantial value in order to convince a customer they’re worth downloading.

Having an app for each and every individual aspect of the program makes it difficult for cross-functional customers to take advantage of the whole program.  Take a customer whose workout routines include running, weights, and circuits and was also  interested in updates about the new flyknit runners.

A screenshot from the Nike SNKRS app explainer page with phone screenshots from the app of different shoes and their release dates.
A screenshot from the Nike SNKRS app explainer page. 

According to Nike Membership this alone would make this customer  a candidate for three of their applications, but the thought of adding 3 new icons to a home screen is extremely overwhelming. If we add in other lifestyle choices like calorie tracking, the problem gets even worse. Customers that are daunted by the number of apps, will end up not downloading any and will miss out on the genuine value the program provides. By streamlining the value of their applications, Nike Membership can more effectively engage with their cross-functional customers.

Thinking of joining Nike Membership? Just Do It.

Like any training athlete, Nike Membership is still pushing to be its best but what it is, is a strong rewards program and a nearly flawless extension of an already amazing brand. With its focus on mobile optimization and hyper-relevant rewards, Nike Membership runs circles around the competition. By slimming their app catalog and providing some re-engagement opportunities, Nike can take their rewards program from great to legendary.

In summary, if you’re thinking about joining Nike Membership... well, you know the rest.