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Nike Embraces Weather App in Campaign to Sell Gear Suited to Local Conditions


Rob Gronkowski, star tight end for the New England Patriots, in Nike’s in-app ad “Snow Day.”

Nike, a brand that made its name by getting on famous feet, wants to bring its swoosh to more consumers’ fingertips.

Starting next month, Nike will begin placing ads in the Weather Channel mobile app, offering suggestions for cold-weather apparel based on local weather conditions. If it is cool and dark, for instance, an ad might appear for a reflective running vest and a base layer from its Pro Hyperwarm line. The in-app ad would then send consumers to Nike’s website, where they could buy the suggested items. The site, both on desktop and mobile, will also allow consumers to see specific products based on different weather conditions.

The campaign strategy reflects a growing interest in apps among advertisers. Americans are spending 60 percent of their online time in apps, compared with about 30 percent on desktop computers and 9 percent on the mobile web, according to a recent report on digital advertising from Goldman Sachs.

Industry executives say that app users tend to be especially engaged, making them an attractive audience for advertisers looking to increase online sales. The ride-hailing service Lyft, for one, was advertising its mobile app this week in Dictionary.com’s app. In addition to Nike, companies like L. L. Bean, Starbucks and State Farm have advertised on the Weather Channel’s app.

“Advertisers are absolutely interested in apps because apps have higher engagement rates in terms of consumers interacting with brands on a mobile device,” said Brian Lesser, the global chief executive of Xaxis, a media and technology company owned by WPP. In particular, he said, retailers and other commerce-based brands can see higher online transaction rates with in-app ads than with other types of mobile ads.

For Nike, the in-app ads are part of a broader campaign it will introduce with a commercial during “Thursday Night Football.” The spot, called “Snow Day,” features 21 top athletes — including Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots, Paul George of the Indiana Pacers and Sydney Leroux and Carli Lloyd of the United States women’s soccer team — who wake up to find their neighborhood blanketed in snow. (The ad was actually shot on a soundstage in Los Angeles.)

“Everybody complains about weather,” said David Schriber, vice president for North America brand marketing at Nike. The point of the commercial, he added, was to show that athletes can have fun training outside even in wintry conditions.

Nike’s campaign is geared toward capturing more online shoppers. At its investor meeting, the company said it expected its e-commerce business to increase to $ 7 billion from $ 1 billion in the next five years, with mobile playing a big role in achieving that goal. But its in-app campaign strategy also responds to a growing threat confronting digital advertisers: ad blocking. The storm that ensued in October after Apple began allowing users to download ad-blocking apps on their mobile devices has dissipated somewhat, but the risk to publishers and brands has spurred the industry to rethink the mobile advertising model. With in-app campaigns, advertisers can sidestep ad blockers, most of which eliminate ads from mobile browsers but not apps.

Mr. Schriber said the weather app ads in particular dovetailed with Nike’s broader goal because they allowed the company to connect with mobile users at a critical decision point.

“If you’re checking the weather,” he said, “you probably have a question in your mind about how you can prepare for that weather.”


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