Nike and neuroscience: Tick tock or why timing will make or break you

By AdNews | 12 July 2013

Nike's Cannes Titanium & Integrated Lion-winning 'Find Your Greatness' ad by Wieden + Kennedy Portland is a beautiful piece of work which tries to capture the best in all people. Or something like that. But it's also cracked the timing in optimising Nike's branding while serving the interests of the narrative. And it's not that easy. The latest in a series of neuroscience probes from Neuro-Insight and AdNews shows that when it comes to committing brand to memory, timing is everything.

From Neuro Insight:

One of the most challenging imperatives of advertising is to ensure that great storytelling also builds the brand. In classic ad tracking, this is usually picked up in brand linkage metrics or the like. When branding is sub-optimal, it’s usually a case of high ad recognition and poor brand linkage. Even worse, poor branding leads to misattribution to a competing brand in the same category.

Unfortunately, just because branding occurs ‘somewhere’ in a TV commercial, there is no certainty that it successfully capitalises on the 'power moments' by being strongly linked to the advertiser's brand. In fact, in some cases branding is moved ‘out of way’, so as to not detract from a great story. The business case behind great brand performance can come and go in a fraction of a second – Nike’s 'Find Your Greatness' ad is a very salient example of this phenomenon.

'Find Your Greatness' is a dramatic example of how these iconic moments in storytelling come and go in a flash. Using second by second neurological analysis of participants’ EEG (electroencephalogram) activity, you can see how variable the responses are between males and females in committing this TV ad to memory. Irrespective of how the genders differ through the ad – branding must be committed to memory strongly ie. with high levels of memory encoding.

Dramatic Gender Differences

Males' memory encoding was consistently high, and stable, while female’s memory encoding data showed a more volatile response. Women reponded strongly to some scenes, with quite dramatic dips in memory encoding at other points during the TV ad. Putting gender aside for a moment, our peer-reviewed validation confirms that the number one correlate to marketplace performance of advertising is the strength of memory encoding during specific branding moments in an ad. In other words, for an ad to achieve its commercial brand objectives, it must have high levels of memory encoding during branding.

Male Responses


Female Responses


But Here’s the Point - The Business Case Behind Successful Branding


The final end branding execution is highly effective for male and female viewers, with the final plunge driving memory encoding up strongly for one very brief moment. Sixty seconds of engaging advertising, one fleeting moment of branding. One might argue that it takes 60 seconds of intrigue to set these precious 'power moments' up. We would totally agree.

That’s all it takes to successfully brand, if the ad also has high memory encoding during branding. For Nike - branding worked beautifully. It was placed directly during the final plunge while the little boy was in mid-air. However, it’s not uncommon for branding to be placed a moment after these peaks. When this happens, the moment is lost. So much can be gained or lost in these executional nuances. Timing is everything. A fraction of a second could only yield a fraction of the brands’ potential performance.

Sign up to the AdNews newsletter, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for breaking stories and campaigns throughout the day.

Have something to say? Send us your comments using the form below or contact the writer at

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at

Sign up to the AdNews newsletter, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for breaking stories and campaigns throughout the day.

comments powered by Disqus