Nike's just begun its US$1 billion-worth tenure as the NBA's official clothing supplier and, in terms of what it means for innovation, I couldn't be happier. I mean, I wouldn't consider myself an Adidas-hater, but the most notable thing they did in their time as official supplier was... adding sleeves to singlets. Peak innovation indeed.
On the other had, Nike, with its first set of uniforms, are already pushing to add more tech into their offerings. But whilst web-enabled clothing might potentially sound lamer than singlets with sleeves, Nike may have gotten the UX right on this one.
Adding IoT elements to clothing isn't a new concept, and it's one that hasn't really taken of. But what makes the "NBA Connected Jersey" different is that it leverages a fan's existing emotional investment in a player; checking on a player's status regularly is already an established part of a fan's day-to-day life, this streamlines that process a bit whilst selling the idea of a "direct link" to their favourite player.
Meanwhile, the potential insights the business could gain about its customers are immense: where are fans tagging in? what kind of content do they react to? can we focus our offerings for each individual to what they're most likely to purchase.
There's also the potential for technological tie-ins: tapping in already gives NBA 2K18 in-game boosts, there's also talk of AR experiences which incentivise fans to go to physical locations with connected jerseys.
Expect Nike (and possibly their competitors) to release more of this type of tech to a wider range of clothing and sports in the very near future.
In this case, Nike had the canny UX insight that the fans’ relationship to the jersey they’ve bought is a unique leverage point: They’re highly engaged and emotionally connected to a particular player. So they’re probably apt to download the NikeConnect app, if doing so means getting in closer with the player they love.