Part Two; Being The Nike+ Of Public Space: Building A Sense Of Belonging - Adam Scott


As we move into the ‘Era of Experience’ developers and city makers are struggling with the pressing need to secure higher quality public engagement to ensure real success in delivering great public spaces that people love.

As mentioned in our last post – Being the Burberry of Public Space: Building an Integrated Experience – we think there is much to be learned here from the world of our other clients, premium brands.

Let’s look at Nike and how they create a sense of belonging by delivering great, shared experiences that attract and involve people and create groups out of individuals.

Nike, the undisputed heavyweights of branded storytelling. Masters of turning the world into a game, a Nike game that rewards their customers with their own live-in story. In 2006 they launched Nike+ and by 2013 there were an estimated 18 million users worldwide.

The platform allowed users to share their sports activities with friends and other like-minded enthusiasts creating a community focused around the human centred experience, allowing individual experiences that were interwoven with the identity of the brand and shared as part of the Nike+ community.

Now let’s compare the ambitions of developers. The Berkeley Group is slightly ahead of the curve with their research and findings around ‘Social Sustainability’. In 2012 they published a study entitled, Creating Strong Communities, setting out their definition of ‘Social Sustainability’ and providing a framework for measuring it.

‘We define Social Sustainability as being about people’s quality of life and the strength of a community, now and in the future…the physical and social fabric of a community are inextricably linked.’

This is all very well and noble, but essentially what we end up with is a PDF no one will ever read. To put this research into practice, they should look to Nike+ for inspiration on how to use their research to identify key opportunities to connect with their users and create communities that are centred around the shared experience.

How could the research be more relevant and real, allowing the place to become live, programmable and better able to act on the feedback and input of its users.

Now let’s compare Berkeley Group and Nike+ through our Experience Masterplanning lens, focusing on the three elements of People, Programme and Place.

1.  People: Make It Relevant!


Nike's newest New York store incorporates live experiences, such as a basketball court, for people to use their product and understand it prior to purchasing - Photo courtesy of

Authentic (human centred) experiences better attract and more successfully involve people. Understanding their needs and desires will provide an opportunity to recognise the moments to connect with users and build their relationship and sense of belonging to a place.

For Nike:

By building an app focused on ‘people first’ Nike + gave its users the perfect way to engage on their terms with the brand and become members of a community – sharing experiences with others who share similar interests and building a relationship, not just from the user to the brand but also between the users themselves.

For Berkeley Group:

The research around residents’ Social and Cultural Life for Knowle Village shows particularly low satisfaction in the ‘links with neighbours’ category. What if there was a live app where individuals felt encouraged to take part in community activities or set up their own events, finding others who shared their interests. This human centred approach could build communities and improve connections across the area.



Nike have addressed the needs of their community by offering them an app that alerts them to new shoe releases - Photo courtesy of

Responsive and (inter)active experiences create a sense of identity between people and their places.

For Nike:

Nike + is highly programmatic in nature, constantly transforming and updating to accommodate new lifestyle trends for individuals and groups and guaranteeing a sense of continued relevancy.

For Berkeley Group:

The Hamptons residents felt a lack of Voice and Influence which hugely reduced their willingness to engage and take action. Voice and Influence is one of the key pillars for how users feedback on their sense of local identity and belonging. A live app that responds to the users would better inform the developer on how to encourage people to take part and celebrate this participation across the whole community.



Nike's global campaign to bring their customers together into the Nike Running Club - Photo courtesy of Nike

Narrative and participatory experiences increase both the dwell time, the potential for collaboration and social shareability.

For Nike:

The celebratory nature of Nike + acts as social cement, creating groups out of individuals. Whether a brand organized fuel fest event or something created by individuals, Nike + is consistently adapting to be responsive and relevant to the needs and desires of the individual and the community as a whole.

For Berkeley Group:

Both Empire Square and Imperial Wharf were performing badly for residents in Amenity and Social Infrastructure when it came to adaptable space. This could be improved by implementing a well thought out programme of events spun around a deep understanding of what will attract, connect and involve people over time.

About the Writer – Adam Scott

Adam is Founder and Executive Creative Director for pioneering Experience Masterplanners FreeState, he is Global Head of Design at leading international design practice HASSELL. He is internationally recognised as an expert in experience design and is personally responsible for storyboarding some of the world’s greatest brands and stands at the forefront of a very modern and multi-sensory wave of experience design for cities. 

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