This Monday marked the second week in the athletic wear giant, Nike’s, new eight-part web series. This ambitious series, titled “Margot vs. Lily,” chronicles a bet between adopted sisters Margot “” social and outgoing but terribly bored by the thought of exercise “” and Lily “” a minor internet fitness star who can’t seem to grasp human interaction. The two do not have much in common, but their competitive spirit drive them and the bet forward. In order to succeed, Margot is challenged to start an online workout channel and gain 1,000 followers while Lily works to make “more than zero friends” and maintain three real friendships. Written by Jesse Andrews (“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”), “Margot vs. Lily” is Nike’s first attempt at long-form branded content media.
Not a stranger to the importance of viral online marketing campaigns, “Margot vs. Lily” is a far cry from the ubiquitous “Just Do It” slogan. Launched as part of the #BetterForIt campaign, “Margot vs. Lily” is Nike’s emotional attempt at increasing sales in the female athletic wear market. This entertainment-oriented marketing web series comes at the same time as a new sales goal for the company overall: $50 billion by 2020. Revealed in Q4 of 2015, this goal emphasizes growth in a few different markets but specifically women’s wear. Even more specifically in the growth of millennial women as customers who not only work out in athletic gear but have also created and thoroughly embraced the “athleisure” trend. In a culture where women are encouraged to wear yoga pants anywhere but the yoga studio, Nike estimates growth for women’s wear in the next five years to increase from $5.7 billion in sales to over $11 billion.
Despite my irrational desire to dislike this overt grasp at female connection, Nike and Andrews for that matter have somehow wormed their way into my mind as I found myself thinking about Margot halfway through the week. I identified a bit too much with the creative type who prefers a nice glass of red wine to a sweaty workout, writes “short fiction” tweets for a local company and always finds the absurdity in burpees. Ultimately that is the goal of Nike’s new series, creating an emotional bond between these characters and viewers. While the word “Nike” is never mentioned on screen, the unmistakable swoosh can be seen from time to time, a subtle reminder this isn’t just the relateable story of an out of shape 20-something but a calculated and scripted marketing piece aimed at women my age. I even found myself casually browsing the Nike website in search of a fun pair of pants (but let’s be real, they’d probably only see daylight on a day I was running late to class) when I was karate kicked back to reality by the $200 price tag (another subtle reminder that most 20 somethings can’t afford Nike).
As a first foray into scripted narrative content, Nike’s weekly “Margot vs. Lily” is actually something I’ve looked forward to these past two weeks. It’s no binge fest (a la Netflix), but it is an interesting look at where the line between entertainment, advertising and marketing gets drawn. There’s already talk of a second season, and while I don’t know what the next six episodes have in store, at this point I wouldn’t be opposed to having a little bit of Margot and Lily in my weekly Internet download.