2K Sports, Nike Team Up in Hoops Deal

Nike and 2K Sports have entered into a marketing partnership that will see hundreds of Nike shoes appear in 2K's upcoming NBA 2K6 video game. The shoes aren't just for show either; collecting different types of shoes will lead to various attribute enhancements for players. With Take-Two about to lose the ESPN license, this Nike relationship could have a big impact.

Take-Two Interactive's sports label 2K Sports today announced the details of a strategic partnership with athletic footwear, apparel, and equipment maker Nike, Inc. in an effort to cross-promote the brands through 2K Sports' upcoming basketball title NBA 2K6, which is slated to appear on PlayStation 2, Xbox and Xbox 360 this fall—financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Nike gets in the game

Nike has had smaller deals with the video game industry in the past, but this relationship with 2K Sports clearly represents the company's greatest involvement/integration to date. Not only will Nike footwear (and other Nike brands such as Jordan and Converse) be prominently featured throughout NBA 2K6, but the Nike brand will also have an impact on gameplay itself—perhaps an example of in-game advertising at its best.

In the game's standard gameplay mode, over 200 Nike athletes will be wearing their actual Nike shoes. However, as players advance in the game's Streetball Mode, new pairs of Nike shoes are awarded, and each shoe is then added to the Nike Shoe Locker. Different types of shoes based on Nike's Flight, Force and Uptempo styles actually give the user enhanced performance when worn in the game by increasing certain attributes.

As more shoes are collected and added to the Nike Locker, players can visit the locker any time to customize their players for greater speed or other characteristics depending on the game situation; this actually gives the game a slight RPG feel as gamers will need to decide how to outfit their players according to the type of streetball challenge. Furthermore, gamers will also be able to use the exclusive 24/7 Nike iD customization feature to personalize the shoes they've added to the locker—this actually mirrors a customization feature that Nike offers customers at the Nike iD website.

In addition, Nike and 2K Sports plan to cooperatively launch new shoes during the NBA season for exclusive use in NBA 2K6. As the season progresses, secret codes will be announced allowing gamers to unlock newly released Nike signature shoes in the game.

Cross-promotion of brands

The scope of the Nike marketing deal also extends to the NBA and Nike websites, as well as Nike's shoe business itself. NBA 2K6 will be featured on NBA.com and on www.nikebasketball.com throughout the upcoming basketball season, and collector's editions of 2K Sports / Nike shoes will be released to the "sneaker enthusiast community." Each collector's shoe will be bundled with a copy of NBA 2K6.

"The relationship between 2K Sports and Nike is about the natural union of two leading brands synonymous with sports, competition and innovation," said Erik Whiteford, vice president of marketing, 2K Sports. "Through this relationship, our aim is to deliver a truly unique basketball experience that taps into the intense passion and energy of the sport."

Added Ralph Greene, US Basketball Brand Director, Nike, "Partnering with an industry leader like 2K Sports allows us to deliver new and rich experiences with the Nike brand and also to provide more authentic gameplay for the consumer."

Differentiating from the competition

Although the 2K series has generally gotten a better critical reception over the past couple of years, early impressions in the enthusiast press seem to suggest that EA's NBA Live franchise is making fantastic progress this season and could put the full court press on Take-Two.

Since Take-Two is about to lose its ESPN license to EA, the company's relationship with Nike could take on even greater importance in the sports video game world, especially since Take-Two does not appear to be value-pricing its game this year. With the price advantage gone, Take-Two will need other ways to differentiate itself and this Nike deal is clearly a step in that direction; whether it'll be a slam-dunk remains to be seen.

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