Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Apps Are the Newest Brand Graveyard, Highlighted by Nike's Ballers Network

Standing before an overflow crowd of the crème de la crème of the advertising world in Cannes this summer, Nike global director of digital media Stefan Olander explained how the brand saw its mission as building community through applications. He highlighted a new initiative: the Ballers Network, a robust Facebook application built by digital shop R/GA for basketball players to find games and manage leagues. On its Web site, Nike promises it will "revolutionize the way players around the world connect online and compete on the court." Six months later, Nike is confronting a dilemma familiar to many brands that charged headlong onto Facebook: very few people use Ballers Network. Despite its global ambitions and support in three languages, the application has a mere 3,400 users per month. According to Nike, it's still testing the application. Brands, in general, have found Facebook unforgiving terrain for marketing. It's well known, for instance, that banner ads perform poorly on the site. (A recent IDC report called advertising on social networks "stillborn.") But the Facebook Platform, launched 18 months ago -- which lets developers create social applications for users -- was thought to offer the perfect opportunity to move beyond banners to provide "branded utility." So far, however, Facebook apps from brands like Coca-Cola, Champion, Ford and Microsoft are as popular as desolate Second Life islands.


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