Nike Takes The "Social" Out Of User Communities

As an active runner who owns a Nike+iPod Sports Kit, I find their upcoming million person race a little strange.

Here’s some more backstory:

nikeipodmillionrace

Nike is gearing up for The Human Race 10k on August 31st, where 1 million+ runners will don their iPods to race in 25+ locations around the world at the same time. The race is designed to highlight the Nike+ product line, which tracks and communicates your pace while you run, and allows you to upload it to compare your results to others. Strangers linked together through iPods yet running side by side…certainly an epitome of the information age!

By leveraging a synergistic brand partnership built on simple but inventive technology, Nike and agency R/GA created the Sports Kit, and did an amazing job at selling more shoes. And they created a user community of runners around the globe who compete as they record their running progress on their iPods.

But the Sports Kit site is an awesome missed opportunity to make this user community an addictive, dedicated fan base. Because when you log on to the site to track your progress, you very rarely have any interaction with other people. Certainly not in the rich way you do on MySpace, where you can comment, share, and message other people. On Nike’s community, you can really only post, or use standard forums.

nike race day screenshot

Back to the million-person race. The way they’re organizing this event is strange because your options are to either:

These both seem like pretty mediocre options to me and fellow runners, like Scott who says:

I’m bummed that there isn’t a Human Race nearby, for I would like to witness it. If anything just to see thousands of runners screaming “ON YOUR LEFT!” to no avail. The blissfully deaf iPod runners are a nightmare in most road races…imagine everyone having one going at full blast! There is definitely going to be some carnage.

What if instead, Nike took an idea from basic street teams and viral marketing. And Nike created event t-shirts people could by for cheap before the race day. Then Nike even made a custom Google Maps mashup that let racers organize running groups in their hometowns.

Just imagine how people would react seeing groups of runners across the country racing together with the same t-shirts. They’ll get the word out. A simple mashup that helps enthusiasts organize around a brand rally call is a lot more inspiring than charging them $35 for the privilege to participate.

Anyone know why they’re doing things this way, instead of getting more social?