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How Nike’s Turning Play Into a Lifestyle for Kids

Jumping rope with a garden hose. Holding a squat while you create a secret handshake with your bestie. Hanging from monkey bars as you see LeBron James get quizzed on his second best sport.

You must be watching Playlist.

The episodic Nike YouTube series, now entering its ninth season, launched two years ago with one clear goal: “We wanted to show kids that sport, at its core, is all about play,” says Jessa Moon, Global Brand Director for Nike Kids. “It doesn't have to be soccer or football or traditional sports — it can be a mash-up or something totally wild and different. We wanted to inspire kids to think about moving their bodies in all kinds of ways and having it be about joy as opposed to winning or competition.”

By the Numbers: Getting Kids Moving

95%

the amount of kids moving while watching Playlist or directly afterward

3.5 million

the number of hours kids have spent moving, thanks to Playlist


Hosted by kid athletes like 13-year-old skateboarder Sky Brown and her 9-year-old brother, Ocean, a typical Playlist episode takes kids through fun and funny movement challenges, ratchets up the silliness with sound effects and slapstick gags, and includes appearances from star athletes like Russell Wilson, Mo Farah, Bebe Vio and the aforementioned King James — all of whom are game to be goofy and show off their inner kid on-screen.

Season after season, the series has grown its presence and audience, fine-tuning on its primary channel, YouTube, and streaming across Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat. Playlist has also found its place in the Nike digital ecosystem, alongside its adult counterparts like the Nike Run Club and Nike Training Club apps, proving that Nike offers not just product, but also day-to-day service and benefits to all its consumers.

The constant throughout, says Moon, is that all Playlist episodes are rooted in fun, because when kids are having fun, they’ll be naturally motivated to move.

Meeting a Larger Goal

For parents, inspiring kids to want to move is more important — and harder — than ever. Today, only one in five kids get the physical activity they need to be healthy and successful. Parents also have even more on their plates, often acting as a child’s cook, chauffeur, stylist, teacher and coach within the course of day.

Playlist is one way Nike sought to help solve this universal problem by providing resources that get kids and their families to enjoy movement together, improving the relationship and bond between grown-up and kid, and setting kids up for a lifetime of healthy habits and movement that they could one day pass on to the next generation.

Doing that meant understanding that the words “play sport” have tension built into them, says Rami Jabaji, VP of Kids Global Brand Management. To today’s kids, explains Jabaji, sport can feel too structured, too competitive — high stakes, yelling coaches, parents pushing them into it. “They feel disconnected from its benefits, from its joy,” says Jabaji. There’s another kind of tension too: Gen Alpha is the most dedicated to activism, yet the least physically active. That’s partly because they don’t fully resonate with today's definition of traditional sport, says Jabaji. “While young kids naturally enjoy movement and play, it’s the moment when sport takes a turn — when it becomes too structured and rule-bound, not based in freedom and discovery — that kids start to opt out, and they trade physical activity for sedentary screen time,” he says. “The screen provides them with a tool that fulfills their needs in a deeper way than sport does.”

How do you solve for that?

“Our answer was, ‘We have to make sport fun again,’” says Jabaji. “We have to anchor it in play and get back to why kids fell in love with sport in the first place.”

That began with putting the kid at the center of every decision, a foundational part of Nike’s new approach to its kids business. Jabaji’s team dubs it “kidvision,” or the idea that kids see the world not as it is, but as it could be. “It’s an innovative lens, a creative lens, a more inclusive and accessible lens,” he says.

Take a screen, for example. Look at it through the eyes of a kid, and they don’t see a negative device. They see a portal into a world where they can be anything they want to be. And that’s where Nike saw opportunity, says Jabaji. “We can meet kids where they are and convert that time into healthy and purposeful movement and activity, and ultimately create a deeper connection with sport.”

By the Numbers: Keeping Kids Engaged

13 billion

the number of TikTok views for Playlist's #TheReplay

100 million+

the number of YouTube views Nike's Playlist has racked up


Evolving with the World

Playlist was an instant hit on YouTube, notching millions of views. When the pandemic hit, the team knew their series had to step up. “We were in the middle of our third season, and we thought, ‘We know this content is critical for kids, now more than ever, but how do we bring it to them in a way that resonates with what they’re going through?’” says Moon. They found the unlock in shifting the entire show to an at-home model, with kid athletes like Brown leading a new content pillar called “Shake-Ups,” creative home-based challenges that throw a zany twist into traditional exercises like planks or squats.

Caption here.

Since then, the team’s moved to an entirely remote-capture model, asking kid hosts and pro athletes to film themselves in their homes, where you inevitably see their kitchens, pets and real-life snafus and interruptions. “It feels more raw and personal, and it’s allowed us to expand globally; recently we’ve included kids in Barcelona, Chengdu and Guadalajara.”

The most rewarding part for Moon has been seeing the social element of Playlist unfold. “We’ve found that most kids are watching it with their siblings or their families. They tell us, ‘Hey, I watched Playlist with my sister, and then we went on and made our own secret handshake,’ or ‘I watched it with my mom and we went out to the backyard and tried to jump rope.’” That aim to strengthen the familial bond and inspire everyone to move? As a Playlist host would say, “Knocked it outta the paaark!”

Doubling Down on the Future

Kids will continue to fuel creativity within the brand when, later this year, Nike introduces the Nike Play Council, a group of young athletes and creators who all share a passion for making sport more fun, accessible and inclusive, and who will help bring Gen Alpha’s vision of sport to life. “It's our opportunity to literally give kids a seat at the table and co-create the future of sport with them,” says Jabaji. The confirmed council members: Sky and Ocean Brown, Brazilian kid skateboarder Rayssa Leal, kid football player Lorenzo Greer (aka Tekkerz Kid), and kid drummer Nandi Bushell (aka “the Most Badass Drummer in the World,” according to drummer Dave Grohl).

Each member of the Play Council will consult and collaborate directly with Nike and also help inform and expand the future of the group. While Nike has always been committed to listening to the voice of the athlete*, the Play Council ensures that young athletes’ voices are heard loud and clear.

According to Jabaji, channeling that voice has been Nike’s greatest win in its new approach to its kids business. “If you look at the world through the eyes of a kid and put them at the center of your work, he says, “the potential of what it can unlock is limitless.”
 

*If you have a body, you are an athlete.

Read More: Kids Design Experience