The Story Behind Nike's Amazing 3-D Air Max Billboard in Japan
March 26 is a day sneakerheads worldwide are very familiar with: Nike Air Max Day.
Celebrating the Air Max began in 2014, and to mark its 35th anniversary, Nike Japan pulled out all the stops and created a 3-D billboard located outside Shinjuku Station in Tokyo. The space is typically home to Shinjuku cat, a beloved, larger-than-life cat who interacts with commuters and passersby.
The Nike Air Max ad begins with an oversized Nike box thrust towards the street. Next, different Air Max designs are created and unveiled outside of the billboard, appearing to float in mid-air. As varying designs and customized colors materialize, the ad concludes with the Nike box moving back inside the billboard, with help from Shinjuku cat's paw.
Muse spoke with Nike Japan about celebrating Air Max Day, doing something different in 3-D OOH, and that cameo from Shinjuku cat.
Muse: Who created the ad?
Nanaka Sakurai, studio manager and producer, Nike Japan: This project was a collaboration between Nike Tokyo's in-house brand creative studio and creative collective CEKAI. Kota Iguchi, a driving force in Tokyo's creative community and the founder of CEKAI, directed the motion graphics in partnership with our brand creative team.
Talk to me about how it was made. How long did it take?
Danny Demers, art director, Nike Japan: The team started exploring possibilities of creating something for this emerging medium in late 2021. From the moment we set our goal of launching creative on Air Max Day, it was about a two-month process to create, program and test the animation for this 3-D OOH. Simultaneously, we were also creating our holistic Air Max Day plan for sneaker lovers in Tokyo.
Were there any challenges? What was the overall goal?
Yoshio Kato, designer, Nike Japan: Working with any new medium can be challenging for any brand or creative team. To ease the learning curve, we drew on different expertise within our team and with our partners to better understand the medium and the opportunity.
Danny Demers: We understood that the impact of 3-D billboards is not only physically in Tokyo, but digitally all over the world. With that in mind, we set out to create something that could be just as impactful on the street in Shinjuku as it is on your phone in New York.
Did you know you would be using the Shinjuku space when the proposal was presented?
Julie Igarashi, creative director, Nike Japan: We as a brand are always striving to innovate, in our product and in our communication. As soon as the proposal to use this new medium at the location in Shinjuku was shared with us, we jumped at the opportunity to explore what was possible for our consumers.
Were you always planning to work Shinjuku cat into creative?
Yoshio Kato: This Shinjuku cat is now a landmark, and we could not miss the opportunity to nod to that homage in our creative and celebrate our partnership with this new medium as well. Over 200,000 people pass through this intersection daily. The impact of the placement has drawn reactions from a wide range of people, and it’s been amazing to see how much excitement this creative for Air Max has created.
Can you give a brief history about Nike Air Max Day and its importance?
Julie Igarashi: Air Max Day is our annual celebration of one of our most important innovations: Nike Air. This moment allows us to share with consumers what Air means to us and hear from them as well, how it has become a part of their lives. Hearing from our consumers every year in this moment, we try to come back the following year and surprise them with exciting, imaginative and meaningful experiences.
How important was it to use and create something with this new technology?
Danny Demers: Nike Air is a celebration of creativity, imagination and innovation. We wanted to convey those elements through a technology aligned to that groundbreaking spirit that would spark excitement with sneakers lovers and passersby alike.
Aside from the billboard, what's happening on Air Max Day?
Nanaka Sakurai: We will take over the entire building and host experiences to connect the OG sneaker community in Tokyo to the next-gen. Aside from the 3-D billboard, the building is also currently wrapped with a giant stack of iconic Nike shoeboxes.