About 2 years ago, Mandalah was invited by Nike to help develop a vision for the brand in Rio de Janeiro in anticipation of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic games. The objective was to gain legitimacy as a brand among Cariocas (residents of Rio) and initiate a long-lasting dialogue with them. Given the cultural peculiarities of Rio and the fact that Nike’s brand was, at the time, too grounded in São Paulo and distant to most Cariocas, we knew this would be no easy task.

Nike and Mandalah in Rio de JaneiroThe first step in the process was to speak candidly to Rio’s residents and understand their perspective with respect to the city’s current moment. We also wanted to understand, given the current state of affairs, what role a brand like Nike could play. Artists, community leaders, athletes, social entrepreneurs, musicians and many other cultural producers were spoken to over the course of 3 weeks as we camped out in the city. Some of the key themes we drew out included:

  • The Nike brand at the time was merely a foreign aspiration; few people had access to the brand nor could they relate to it through any memorable touchpoint.
  • People were skeptical about Nike’s intentions, concerned with what appeared to be well-timed opportunism, given the 2 big events ahead.
  • There was an overriding concern that if Nike adopted a top-down media-saturated “brand attack” in Rio, typical of big corporate brands, it would be widely rejected by Cariocas.

These are some of the reasons why Nike and Mandalah chose to adopt a bottom-up approach in Rio based on 2 somewhat adjacent principles: sport as a catalyst for social transformation and sport as an integrative force among residents of the city. the concept we developed – “inFusion” – is a play on words that refers to the city’s rapidly changing social dynamics as well as the role the Nike brand could play by infusing the city with its passion, energy and excellence in sport…

To find out what happened next, download the free white paper.