Real, Nike-Style Advertising Helps Dick’s Elevate Their Game

As two sporting goods chains (Sports Authority, Sports Chalet) fade away, another seems to get stronger and stronger. Dick’s Sporting Goods keeps opening new stores and is catching my attention with their Nike-like ads that resonate and inspire.

I just read this fantastic article on the effectiveness of empowering ads. Though it specifically looked at how empowering women in advertising generates more responses and interaction, I’d say the same holds true for any empowering ad with any audience. One of the points that author Susan Wojcicki makes is:

Empowering ads don’t just generate impressions, they leave impressions.

In other words, they have staying power, which can often translate to buying and increased word-of-mouth. Dick’s recent advertising definitely leaves an impression. Let’s start with their “Contenders” ad:

If this doesn’t inspire you, bring a tear to your eyes or bring any emotion up inside you, then the advertising business is not for you (and your heart might be just a little dead inside).

Dick’s not only supports athletes who are training for the Olympics and Paralympics (about 200 across 35 sports), they used their own employees in this ad. As Ad Age reported, Dick’s, working with ad agency Anomaly, is “making a habit of using real people and their honest emotions in its ads.”

Bravo! As they should. There’s no better way of establishing trust and connecting with your audience than by using real people with compelling stories or action.

Advertising, marketing and branding is all about being real, sharing stories people can relate to. Dick’s isn’t being original–Home Depot has done this before (years ago even) with their pre-Olympics advertising because they are another company who employs athletes and supports them as they train. But that’s okay. Not everything has to be original, it just has to be done well, and their latest ads certainly are.

Dick’s is upping their game to the level of Nike, Adidas and Under Armour advertising–all brands their stores sell, so it makes sense to go in this direction.

Here’s the most recent one I saw that stuck in my brain:

This “Footwear” ad isn’t blatantly empowering but it is real and very human. In 60 seconds, they cover just about every sport and manage to work in family at the same time, while never showing faces, only feet. It’s clever. The music integrates well with the sounds of feet hitting pavement, tracks, puddles and more. Yet there’s also a warmness to it that comes from a subtle inclusion of kids’ feet.

For an ad they don’t bother to even title, it shows a broad range of products and manages to hook you in at the same time with a quickening beat and that human connection.

I hope Dick’s continues its relationship with Anomaly for a while because I kind of can’t wait to see what comes next. Interestingly, Dick’s and Anomaly share another connection–they both employ Olympic athletes in training. A quick look at Anomaly’s site revealed their “account man” Daryl Homer is training for the 2016 Olympics as well.

Good luck to all the athletes training for this summer’s Olympics and Paralympics, and let’s hope Dick’s and Anomaly keep this good stuff coming!


P.S. If you’re looking for an empowering ad for women, Dick’s and Anomaly made one of those too. It was Adweek’s Ad of the Day in April of last year.