Kicking their way to the top

For many young men in Russia, football (aka soccer) is an obsession. They play day and night on scruffy neighborhood pitches called Korobkas. But there's little hope of going pro, because the Russian Premier League tends to ignore local talent and import foreign players.

To give local scrappers a leg up, Nike created a system of "selfie scouting," which allowed Russian amateurs to show off their skills to pro scouts, using cellphone videos. From 8,000 submissions, an elite squad named K11 was assembled for a match against a team from Britain's Nike Academy - an event viewed on national TV, YouTube and Facebook Live by over 800,000 people. The match earned two K11 players contracts with the Nike Academy and woke the Russian sports establishment to the talent right under their noses. K11 2.0 is underway right now.

The K11 project is a great example of a brand immersing itself in the customer experience (in this case, street-level culture) in an authentic way. The fact that the engagement from K11 probably sold a lot of Nike shoes is almost beside the point. As always, Nike is thinking much, much bigger.

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