No Pain, No Gain – the emotional struggle.

We now understand how Nike places itself in the market and how they have managed to stay successful. But what makes people see Nike the way it is? What is Nike’s brand image and how does Nike project itself to show it?

Image result for moon shoes nike

Nike’s first pair of running shoes faced an up-hill battle because the marketing department had to work doubly hard in convincing people that jogging was beneficial for health. People only started buying running shoes after they understood the benefits of jogging, and realised that it was an investment worth the time, effort and pain. It was the identifiable benefits associated with the shoes rather than the shoe itself which made the product worth the buy. Thus, the opponent-process theory (Solomon & Corbit, 1974) comes in.

This theory on motivation and emotion views emotions as a pair of opposites. For example, fear – relief, pleasure – pain, excitement – frigidity. This theory states that when one emotion is experienced, the other is suppressed.

Customers love great products and they love serious benefits. For them, things that benefit themselves are easily justifiable and worth a going through a little ‘pain’(Griezz & Han, 2002).

Image result for fear

For example, if you are frightened by a crazy dog nearby, the emotion of fear is expressed and relief is suppressed. Should the dog remain there for a long time, the fear is said to dip slightly and relief starts to take over. In other words, if the dog did not notice you, your fears would be alleviated and relief that the dog did not attack would increase. If the stimulus is no longer present, then the first emotion disappears and is replaced totally with the second emotion. If the dog turns and runs, you are no longer afraid, but rather feel very relieved. Or even, scratching an itch generally relieves the itch and can be pleasurable, but often ends up making the itch more intense and, after repeated itching, even painful.

Image result for pleasure feeling

Nike capitalises on the typical hero story and turns it on its customers. Instead of inspiring customer loyalty by singling out an external enemy, it pulls on our heartstrings and focuses on an internal foe – our laziness. Nike advertising knows how often we battle with our lazy side. Every morning when that alarm goes off and it’s still totally dark outside, the battle begins. When we choose how long to run, the battle continues. This is how Nike marketing uses emotional marketing to inspire customer loyalty. They know that while some people may identify with an external foe, all people identify with an internal one.

Applying the opponent-process theory into Nike’s advertising, we have Nike painting a picture of Joe who wakes up in the wee hours of the morning, working and sweating it out. This person is going through a gruelling workout that spells pain and dread.
Joe struggles and roughs it out, eventually accomplishing his end goal and seeing his hard work pay off. There the feeling of achievement and satisfaction kicks in and overcomes his opposing emotion of dread. He feels great and the side effects of euphoria kick in, prompting a satisfying after-effect. Repeated stimulations increase the effects of the opposing emotion and makes the person look forward to the next workout session.

All in all, Nike makes sure to keep their brand message relevant. By identifying with issues personal to the customer, they have already established an emotional link. Their focus on creating content to promote the benefits of their products appeal greatly to the customer. Allowing their customers to feel good about themselves even when they go through tough times is what Nike does best and something that I learnt about through my readings.

(603 words)


  1. Pitts, B., & Stotlar, D. (1996). Fundamentals of sport marketing. Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology.
  2. Opponent Process Theory. (n.d.). In’s online glossary. Retrieved from: Process Theory [Accessed: 11 October 2016]
  3. The opponent-process theory of emotion. Retrieved from: [Accessed: 11 October 2016]

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