It has been more than 25 years since the premiere of Back to the Future. Movie lovers still have fond memories of Marty McFly’s adventure through time and back. While the original is of course the classic that started it all, it wasn’t until the sequel, Back to the Future II, that Marty was seen sporting the futuristic high-tops many fans dreamed of owning. Thanks to its clever marketing of what could be the most innovative shoe of all times, Nike has been able generate a ton of buzz for its brand and a good cause with the launch of the kicks Marty wore in 2015.
Nike recently released a limited edition of the Nike Air Mag, a pair of shoes designed in the likeness of the pair Marty McFly rocked in the 1989 feature film Back to the Future II. To create a sense of rarity, the sportswear company only put 1,500 pairs on the shelves, interestingly, four years before they were set to debut, according to the film directed by Robert Zemeckis. Nike’s promotion of the Marty McFly Nikes was nothing short of brilliant and can teach marketers a thing or two about creating a successful viral campaign.
Whether it is apparel or sports equipment, Nike gear doesn’t come cheap. The same is true for the hip pair of Marty McFly Nikes, which were priced up to thousands per pair. However, Nike’s intention was not to drive revenue, but to drum up support for Parkinson’s disease. 1 in 272 people currently have the disease in the United States, while an estimated 1 in 90 have it, yet are not aware, according to Parkinsons-Disease.org. In a show of good faith, Nike is donating all the proceeds from the Marty McFly shoes to charity: specifically, the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
The Celebrity Factor
As you may know, actor Michael J. Fox, who portrayed Marty McFly in all three Back to the Future films, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1990. In 1998, he announced his condition to the public, and since that time has played an active role as an advocate for Parkinson’s disease research, highlighted by the Michael J. Fox Foundation created to help find a cure. Fox totally backed the Marty McFly Nikes, even talking to Letterman to promote them and the cause.
Even non-profit causes need effective marketing to be successful, and Nike was on top of it in this regard. To help get the word out, the top-selling shoemaker leveraged what is easily the hottest marketing medium going today: online video. The video “McFly’s Closet” was posted on DocEmmettBrown88’s YouTube channel. If you’re a fan of the series, you know that Dr. Emmett Brown, better known as “Doc,” is the mad genius who created the flux capacitor that enabled Marty to travel through time and back in the Back to the Future films. This savvy marketing resulted in a viral sensation as the video has received more than two million views so far.
Nike’s handling of the Marty McFly-inspired Air Mags was near flawless, and could serve as a blueprint in effective viral marketing. Considering the hype and demand this initiative generated, the only question is whether or not the company filled Marty’s closet with enough spare shoes.