Product of Your Environment

Skateboarding is a complex subculture composed of the rigors found in both sport and art. There are pure components of athleticism mixed with stylistic freedom.

I found a community that embraced the diversity of life in skateboarding, and I haven’t found another community like that until this summer, when I became an intern at a forward-thinking marketing agency. After bringing lessons learned from my work community to my personal community, I’ve picked up on how important it is for companies to be fully immersed into the community in which they are trying to succeed. To this skater’s eye, it seems that companies who’ve dived into the skateboarding world seem to go either the sporty way, or the artsy way, never to find the sweet spot in the middle. That is until Nike became the skateboarding powerhouse that it is today.

Nike entered the skateboard industry in the late 1990’s with little enthusiasm from the skateboard world. With already strong skater owned-and-operated shoe companies within the industry, why would any skater bat an eye at the swoosh? With the omnipresent anti-establishment ideal in skateboarding culture, it would require one of the most widely recognized shoe brands in the world doing a lot of work to get some skaters on their side.

In 2002 Nike created the Nike SB brand to show their commitment to becoming a key player in the skateboard industry. The SB stands for skateboarding, and this would be the devout focus of the SB brand. Upon the 2002 rebranding and establishing a strong team of riders, Nike SB was getting more and more support. While there is an apparent focus on skateboarding, Nike SB has stayed true to their traditional, athletically styled roots.

Nike subsidiary Converse entered the skateboarding world under the Converse CONS name in 2009. This second company under the Nike umbrella showcased a completely opposite aesthetic from the Nike SB brand. Converse shed light on the shadowed outcasts and eccentrics in skateboarding, embracing that audience with pride. In the same vein as Nike SB, CONS has stayed true to their Converse roots, with their main line being toughened versions of the iconic Chuck Taylor shoe called the CTAS (Chuck Taylor Skate).

(In even black and white images, Nike SB’s identity remains visually bold and athletic, whereas CONS’ identity stays sharp and gritty.)

Nike has successfully pushed Nike SB and CONS product through knowing what each brand distinctly has to offer in skateboarding’s community.

Nike SB has turned would-be minor video commercials into cultural convergences with appearances from sports celebrities such as John McEnroe, Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, and Kyrie Irving, to popular comedian/actors like Blake Anderson and JB Smoove. Nike SB also helps host some of the most major contests in skateboarding including the world-famous Tampa Pro and Street League Skateboarding contests featured on ESPN.

Watch the Nike SB ads here and here.

CONS has turned their advertisements into raw, visceral experiences. Almost always in gray-scale, CONS commercials accentuate the artistic freedom of skateboarding in a stream-of-consciousness manner. Among the most popular CONS’ marketing productions are the videos “Manhattan Days” (2014) and “Trocadero Days” (2014), created by CONS European Ambassador Pontus Alv. In some cases, the video marketing techniques feature mostly unedited video footage, again screaming the rhetoric and identity of the brand, like this video of Zered Bassett skating through his neighborhood in the streets of New York.

Pontus Alv in “Trocadéro Days”

The stylistic verve in both brands’ ads emanates the true diversity in skateboarding, and skaters are responding to that.

Now to the bread and butter: the shoes.

Nike has implemented their top-of-the-line expertise into both Nike SB and CONS. One of the most popular additions is the famous Lunarlon insole. Originally designed for cross-country and long distance runners, Lunarlon insoles lessen the impact feet absorb. Any skateboarder would agree that’s a natural transition for high-impact technology. Almost every shoe from the Nike SB and CONS lines feature the Lunarlon insole and sockliner, and among more recent updates in SB skate shoes include the Nike Free running, and AirMax technology.

After almost two decades in the skateboarding industry, Nike has done a plethora of projects that have helped sustain the future of the sport/art. With prominent celebrity appearances and visions of independent artists in these marketing efforts, Nike is pushing the value they see in skateboarding beyond the millennial age group.

And if using their financial and technological strength to better the skateboard industry wasn’t enough, what about the recent transformation of a formerly illegal place to skateboard (complete with no skateboarding signs, skate-stoppers on ledges and rails) into a legal, fully functional skateboard plaza? Nike did this with the defunct West La Courthouse building, a former stomping ground for recent skate legends.

Nike’s success in skateboarding? Holistic commitment to the culture in every way, shape, and form.

If this kind of commitment isn’t what knowing your community is all about, I don’t know what is.

Image Sources:
Nike SB shoes:
Nike Skateboarding Team:
Converse CONS Skateboarding Team:
Nike Collage:;
Converse Trocadéro Days film by Pontus Alv:
Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing Nike Lunar One Shot:
Converse Lunarlon Sockliner Technology:
LA Go Skateboarding Day:
Nike Los Angeles Twitter: