Nike Just Elevated The Game...Again


As a tech-driven experiential agency, and massive fans of the NBA, we felt a little more than compelled to be writing about the new interactive technology that Nike is weaving into 2017 jerseys. And advertising on the game jerseys aside, the RFID implementation into the tag has ‘wowed’ a lot of people, but looking back, it’s super easy to connect the dots and see Nike was planning this for years… Let’s dive in and explain.

There’s been a lot of talk and discussion about the ‘Future of clothing,’ over the past few years, and with advances in 3D printing, machining, and other manufacturing techniques, a lot of questions have come forward about what that future may look like. And before any real concrete answers, or thought-leadership has come about, Nike dropped the answer in our faces. RFID and NFC (near-field communication) seem to be the logical first step, and Nike plans on showing us how it’s done on one of the biggest stages of them all. Every night, on all 30 of the The National Basketball Association’s home courts.

Every jersey, every player, and every fan who purchases one of these new 2017 edition jersey’s will be able to ‘tap’ into the game, and see where their favorite players are, what they’re listening to, and how they’re doing. Probably even more than that, too. Fascinating, right?

The possibilities seem endless right now, and everyone from, to, Designboom and more writing and speculating about this.

Anyway, if you’re totally lost  (And apparently missed it) watch this Nike hype video teasing the ‘connected jersey.’

Amazing, right? It really feels like the ‘Future of clothing.’ Especially if you can (as promised) ‘tap’ into the game and find out where your favorite players are, see what they’re listening to, and know stats and analytics about them during the games.

Seeing the ad, it immediately sets off a series of, “What if’s?” and begs us to ponder a slew of answers from what we may or may not be able to find out come the start of the NBA season in mid-October. Anyway, the whole system is based on NFC/RFID technology, that just so happened to come with the release of Apple’s new iOS 11 update, which, unsurprisingly, has a lot of 21st-century updates, including RFID/NFC communication features (the same tech Apple/Samsung Pay uses).

 Coincidence? I think not.  


Nike has the inside track on a lot of things, it’s becoming more clear year after year. They’re not playing the same game as anyone. They don’t want to, or need to, and are truly becoming a transcendent lifestyle company. With that said, the new Apple update boasts a slew of new features, including this NFC technology that allows your phone to act as a connective device to specialized chips in other tech devices with this chip. It’s the same way that ‘Apple Pay’ works, really. You just ‘tap’ your phone onto the credit card machine and bam! You’re good to go and just took care of a payment 10x faster than with your credit or debit card. So, in theory, moving that kind of system towards an NBA Jersey shouldn’t be that difficult, right?


The best part about this story is that you know Nike had to be sitting on this for years….ensuring the relatively simply technology could be implemented and connected into hundreds of thousands of NBA Jersey’s, while seamlessly building a cloud infrastructure that could handle millions of requests per hour and give updates on individual NBA players through this app. The creative, UX and UI must all be deceptively simple, and while it’s still ‘futuristic,’ it’s far more impressive that Nike can pull this off on a permanent basis going forward from 2017 on. This ‘activation’ isn’t temporary, nor is it a short play. Very much so, this looks like it was indeed the long con. 

Anyways, It was only a matter of time, really, before some clothing manufacturer mass-produced RFID tags into clothing. It’s been thought of before, and clothing retailers from Burberry to Gucci have commented on it or looked into doing this in-store, but it just happens that Nike is the perfect company to utilize the RFID/NFC system. When you look back at what they did with the original Nike+ Training app, it’s tough to say this isn’t an advanced data in the same line graph.

What’s so fascinating about how Nike implemented this with people’s smartphones (assuming both Apple and Android will work) is they must have worked independently with nearly every phone manufacturer and software teams to ensure it would work across a variety of devices. As it currently is, Apple’s NFC technology is currently (and publicly) only limited to being used by and FOR them, which means they must have give the green light to Nike from the inside, to allow these, ‘connected jersey’s,’ to work.




As it is, here are all the features available if you’re going to have this new Nike+ App and Connected Jersey:

  • Users can personalize the program to highlight their favorite team and player; the status bar shows a pre-game countdown, in-game score, or post-game final based on your squad preferences.
  • The social network-like news feed below includes recap videos and GIFs; click to see more, and hold to share externally with friends and fellow fans.
  • Click the trophy icon in the bottom left to find game-day offers and upcoming rewards—licensed products, NBA 2K18 boosts, game tickets, athletes’ Spotify playlists—or the jersey symbol on the right to see your history of tap-ins and rewards.

Tagging onto this, Nike’s move completely exemplifies that they not only make amazing apparel wear, fit for global athletes but beyond that, they know and understand what consumers want. It completely separates them from their competitors. What other companies do you know that cater to the consumer’s consumer? Just another example of Nike’s vista of the entire sports industry landscape. They are truly multi-dimensional and are playing chess steps ahead of everyone else.

And in addition to the features above, fans who have these connected jersey’s can follow their favorite player, and when they ‘tap’ their phone to the tag on their jersey, the Nike+ app, will bring them to the central ‘team’ tab and will unlock special highlights, team info, countdown till tipoff, and show where their team is playing next. The social-like tabs will allow fans to share content, and also will have the ability to unlock special deals, tickets to games, exclusive content on video games and more. And although the players will not be wearing these NFC chips in their game attire, the opportunity for them to have it on another year remains to be seen.




Lastly, Nike also left the location option open on this app, which leaves a MAJOR role for advertisers to play in this thing…depending on where you are, certain businesses could launch deals or promotions straight to your phone, which could be the ultimate attention-grabber for fans across the game. Will Nike start selling media buys? Probably not, but just think of the possibilities here for mobile advertising, especially during a game, where you have a captive audience.

Overall, Nike is positioning this entire thing as a gateway for fans to become closer to their teams. It’s not a piece of technology, it’s not just a jersey, it’s a unifying platform to connect fans with the game. And in this contest, everyone’s going to be a winner.

Will the NFL, MLB, WNBA, NHL follow suit?

Launching on September 29, this innovative marriage of apparel and digital technology gives NikePlus members and NBA fans access to incredible product, customized content and exclusive experiences through the NikeConnect logo on their jersey’s jock tag. See more here on the jerseys. 

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