Behind the scenes at Nike ACG with Fresh Britain

It’s nice to break up all our obsessive product posts with something of substance.

To most consumers of clothing and footwear, the issue of what makes a brand tick isn’t something they’re overly concerned with. Sure, there are the forum bores who reckon they know everything and aren’t influenced by anything more than their inherent sense of style. But most don’t even ask the question. They look at something and know they’re into it without having to ask themselves why. They get the brand, they view its integrity as a positive and they appreciate the design. None of this is a happy accident. It is all brought together by people with expertise, a hard work ethic and years of experience.

One of these people is a chap by the name of Bob Sheard. His company, Fresh Britain has been behind some of the most impressive success stories in menswear. Levi’s, Arc’teryx, New Balance, Doc Martens and UVU have all benefited from Bob and Fresh.

In the case of Nike’s ACG line, he was chiefly responsible for relaunching the brand successfully in Europe.

Having immersed themselves in the ACG brand, they set about shaking things up, the first thing being the visuals.

Bob explains –

“When we initially went to meet them they asked us what was right with ACG. We explained what was wrong with ACG, chiefly that thing in the middle of their logo – the Swoosh.”

“The Swoosh is imbued with over 20 years of individuals’ values, of personal glory and victory. The values of glory and victory are the antitheses of why people go snowboarding or venture into the outdoors. That’s the consumer barrier but there is also a retail barrier and that is that retailers do not want you to dominate their outdoors sector like Nike dominate the sport sector.”

So it’s not just a case of getting a graphic design whizzkid to some up with something that looks cool? It has to represent something, it has to work on the subconscious of the people it is aimed at. And in ditching the swoosh, ACG pulled a masterstroke.

It’s not all presentation though. The biggest factor on which brands are judged is purely and simply their behaviour. Bob picks up the story again.

“We told Nike to behave their way in. We got them to take all the buyers from all the major outdoor stores in Europe and took them on a trip to the Alps on an avalanche warning expedition. So basically, we skied and snowboarded with them a little bit beyond their capabilities. We taught them about avalanches, we used products all designed by Nike. We designed a route down the mountain to ensure that they would have to use all their products a certain way. We made it so they would have to use their hoods, their rucksacks and so on, basically get the full use of their equipment. It was like a showcase, a dress rehearsal. And by the time they got to the bottom they were totally exhausted, yet sold and convinced on the product.”

“At the bottom of the mountain we arranged a helicopter to pick them all up and that was the only time we used the Nike logo. We put a Swoosh on the back of the helicopter pilots helmet.”

Brands often make the mistake of believing it is the consumer who must behave in a certain way. They believe it is a case of reminding people they exist via a short-term marketing campaign. In the case of many brands, it’s more about getting back to their core substance and what gives them authority. In the case of ACG, Fresh sought to change perceptions through behaviour. Not through big spends or advertising or endorsements but by behaving in the right way.

Now I don’t know about you, but this stuff intrigues me. I’m not normally a navel gazer and I don’t spend ages agonising over what the shape of a logo means. I prefer to just ‘get it’. But once in a while it’s nice to steal a little look on the other side of the curtain. Plus it’s nice for me to talk about brands I’m into like a grown up isn’t it?

There will be more from Fresh on here in the future.

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Mark Smith

I had pizza for tea.

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