This was my second year attending the SXSW Interactive conference in Austin. And while it seemed a hell of a lot more crowded than last year, it wasn't that different. Corporate sponsors, as well as aspiring start-ups, had experiential displays set up in the convention center, in hotels and in bars and parking lots all over the city. From free rides across town in a Chevy Volt, to literally playing a game of foursquare on the Foursquare Court, there was no shortage of cool things to explore and experience. One of the most popular destinations this year came from a brand I wouldn't have expected to be at an interactive conference: Nike.
Nike took over an empty lot in downtown Austin to promote its latest product, the Nike Fuel Band. The next evolution in Nike+, the Fuel Band is meant to measure everything you do throughout the day - every step, calorie, etc. - no matter what sport or activity. The Fuel Band connects to your iPhone via Bluetooth, and then to the web via the Nike Fuel Band app. Naturally, the whole thing is then tied to social media. Users set goals, or fuel levels, that they want to reach each day.
The Fuel Band ties nicely into Nike's broader campaign line, "Life's a sport, make it count." And while it certainly looks cool, the actual product is just the first splash in what's quickly becoming an exciting new territory for Nike. While they'll never stop making sneakers, Nike is quickly becoming a technology company. Products like the Fuel Band give Nike fans new ways to connect with one another and share with their broader social networks. And the more people interact, the more data Nike receives on the back end. Data, as any SXSW attendee from this year can tell you, is becoming more and more valuable to marketers. In conjunction with the launch of Fuel Band, Nike has opened up their own API (application programming interface), so that developers can create applications that use their data. Pretty cool, and definitely something to watch as more brands start to blur the lines between physical and digital.