Nike starts US soccer push with fair play message

BEAVERTON, OR - Nike is supporting its recently launched Joga Bonito campaign urging soccer players to play the game virtuously, with a grassroots efforts aimed at amateur teams.

The effort is meant to boost the sport's profile in the US.The centerpiece is a national, three-on-three soccer tournament supported by broad grassroots PR. The campaign will crown a US champion as the World Cup starts in June.

Nate Tobecksen, Nike media relations manger, said that grassroots PR has begun with Nike reaching out to soccer clubs and high school teams with whom it maintains relationships.

Long-time ad agency Wieden & Kennedy created the ads, and Nike is working with other, undisclosed marcomms firms.

Though the US qualified for the World Cup in Germany and youth uptake of soccer continues to rise, Tobecksen conceded that the US still needed more of a push to embrace the sport.

"Clearly the US has some catching up to do with the rest of the world," he said. "Hopefully, the tournaments and Web site will help bring [soccer] to a broader audience."

Nike teamed up with Google to launch Joga.com, which will include Nike-produced content featuring soccer's greatest players, as well as content submitted from the online community. While Tobeckson expects there to be an international presence on the site, it is predominately focused on US consumers.

The goal of the website, Tobeckson said, is to "open up a dialogue with soccer fans across the US."

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