In Texas, football is life. So it was a big deal, not only for Houston but for the whole state, that Super Bowl 51 would be hosted in NRG Stadium. And while many marketers spent millions at this year’s big game, one savvy athletic brand found a different way to connect with players and the Houston community.
Nike chose not to buy a space to entertain C-level executives and wealthy out-of-towners. Instead, Nike invested its time in Houston engaging young athletes and reviving and celebrating a rivalry older than Super Bowl itself. The high schools of Houston’s 3rd and 5th Wards, Yates and Wheatley High Schools, once hosted the largest attended high school football game in the country—the Turkey Day Classic. Nearly 26,000 fans attended this game each year until 1967, when the Texas high school governing body canceled it. Inspired by the presence of Super Bowl 51 in Houston on the 51st year since the last Turkey Day Classic, Nike decided it was time to bring the communities and players of the 3rd and 5th Wards back together in the name of football.
The campaign kicked off with the reveal of two custom murals designed to rally and excite the students of Yates and Wheatley high schools. Created by a local Houston street artist, the murals, painted on shipping containers, highlighted each school’s team and community to launch a week-long activation across both Wards.
Key elements of the campaign included:
“Inspiration Night” – a celebration of the athletes and history of the Turkey Day Classic; athletes, coaches, principals and alumni all attended to hear stories from Andre Ware and David Johnson along with renown speaker and author Eric Thomas
- Guest appearances from NFL players to take over the morning school announcements and classroom curriculum which includedMarshall Faulk, Hall of fame running backMelvin Gordon, Running back with the LA Chargers
- Brandin Cooks, Wide receiver
and return specialist for the New Orleans Saints
- J. Hayden, Cornerback for the Oakland Raiders and played at Univ. of Houston
- Brandin Cooks, Wide receiver
- A lunchtime celebration with Texas tastemaker DJ Mr. Rogers to bring back true school spirit
- An exclusive Yates and Wheatley football combine led and motivated by Nike coaches and NFL athletes which included
- Jarvis Landrey, Wide receiver with the Miami Dolphins
- Spencer Ware, Running back with the Kansas City Chief
- LeSean McCoy, Running back with the Buffalo Bills
- The field was lined with the band, cheerleaders and drill teams from each school along with their other schoolmates, family and friends as they compete in skills-based drills
- A final night block party, where Nike offered community members complementary services from local barbers and stylists, a skills and drills area for everyone to test their athleticism, and food trucks. To top it off, DJ Mr. Rogers emceed the evening with a live performance from Bun B, and students walked away with a custom, Nike-designed t-shirt representing their high school.
How was this activation smarter and more impactful than others' at or during the big game?
Nike directly engaged its target audience—Nike built a strong relationship with young athletes likely to be loyal to the brand in the long term
- The activation cost was significantly lower than a :30 second commercial spot, and likely lower than a branded space around NRG Stadium
- Athletes and community members spent three days with the Nike brand exclusively
- This experience is just the beginning of a relationship between Nike and the Houston community…
Nike will be returning to the 3rd and 5th Wards this fall to bring back the Turkey Day Classic for the first time in 51 years. And those shipping containers we used to kick off the campaign? They’ll be staying in Houston for both teams to use as storage units for their football equipment.