Turning a Shoe Into a News Cycle

Posted on September 22, 2011 by 1 Comment

They’ve been called ‘the most famous shoes never made.’ You might know them as the quasi-futuristic high-tops from Back to the Future II.  Regardless of what you know or have heard about Nike’s MAG, they’ve definitely made one heck of a comeback.


Earlier this month, Nike rereleased the MAG in a well-executed campaign that not only integrated events, PR and social media but also tied in celebrity engagement and charity sponsorship. Let’s look at how they did it:



Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

The MAG owes most of its reinvention to fan interest.  Since Back to the Future II premiered in 1989, fans have been rampant to see the shoes worn by Marty McFly become real. There have been “more than two decades of speculation, campaigning, and general nerd angst” from both Future and Nike enthusiasts to see the shoes come to fruition.  (Source: Fast Co Design). 

“In 2007, a group of fans launched a grassroots campaign named McFly2015, begging Nike to make the shoes. Nike listened [by] releasing a special edition series of Nike Hyperdunks with the distinctive teal-and-gray coloring and Back to the Future-inspired typography. But that didn’t satiate the masses, who wanted a shoe that was 100% true to the concept. They also wanted power laces, especially when it was discovered that Nike had pulled a patent for an “automatic lacing system” in 2009.” (Source: Fast Co Design).

Tying It to a Cause

After Nike and Universal decided to make the MAG a reality, they decided to integrate support of Michael J. Fox’s (i.e. Mary McFly’s) Foundation to  “erase Parkinson’s disease from the space-time continuum.” (Source: the Denver Egotist).  150 pairs of MAG’s were put on an eBay auction where they’ve raised a total over $900,000 – or almost $6,000 a pair. 

 Making it a 360-Experience

Select press were sent a box along with their invitation to the event. Inside, there was an iPod shuffle with a message from Dr. Emmett Brown, a preserved bottle of Pepsi from 1985, and a replica pair of the Doc’s metal shield glasses. (Source: CNET).


The press event was held at Universal Studios’ Clock Tower, where hundreds of MAG’s glowed behind a two-story glass wall at the entrance to the Montalban Theater. Guests were treated to peeks at film paraphernalia like Doc’s plutonium case while they sipped Pepsi (of course) at “Cafe ’80s” and posed for photos on a hoverboard. There was, of course, a DeLorean outside mocked up in perfect detail, right down to the “Save the Clock Tower” flyer on the dashboard. This 1985-by-way-of-2015 environment and the stealthy buzz that fueled it was thanks to a creative team at Wieden+Kennedy, who worked with Nike’s events team to make the launch a reality.


Everything about the relaunch was on-theme and authentic. By staying consistent with the details of the film, Nike generated a ton of positive buzz from traditional press and bloggers alike. 


Star Power
Michael J. Fox’s partnership with Nike was a natural fit – he made the shoes famous.  Through a well-timed appearance on David Letterman, Fox announced the shoe’s Back to the Future website creating even greater buzz.  The real celebrity standout was Christopher Lloyd. Blogger recaps of the event went absolutely crazy when the real “Doc” showed up onstage.


In addition to traditional celebrities, Nike also made use of art superstars by asking select artists to create Back to the Future posters. The art is amazing, and has generated conversations amongst Future and art fans alike.

 The Lesson for Event Professionals

Expanding your event them to include PR, celebrity and charity can really help your company break through the noise and create news.

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