A Dubai playground that proves Nike understands the future of sport | #BehindTheIdea

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You should never work with kids and animals. That’s the classic line. But when it comes to advertising, it couldn’t be any more untrue. Kids and animals are a natural fit for the medium, as they remind us all of happier and more innocent times.

But what about when the kids themselves are the target audience?


Creative retail agency HATTER was recently beset by this quandary when they were asked by Nike Dubai to create a project that would “get kids moving, and looking into the future of sport and play.” 

The answer was Play Now Dubai - a family-oriented project that aims to bring back the importance of play by making it inclusive, free, and non-competitive. With so much focus in the media on kids and screen time, this is a refreshing story on reconnecting kids with what has been proven to define identities. 

Based on a study looking to define the future of sport, the project is directed at parents and kids, helping them to better understand the importance of play outside of a constructed sport. 

The creative setup features a front playground, play trails, and the game space, which changes every 10 days. The three games are a Sideways climb (climbing wall), Unpredicta-ball (shooting hoops) and a Dancefloor with blaze pods. Every participant receives a patch upon completion, and parents receive a digital takeaway which encourages the continuation of play at home.

To learn more about the project and go #BehindTheIdea, we caught up with Simon Hatter, the founder and namesake of HATTER.


What was the brief?

HATTER was asked to create the strategy, creative and execution of a multi sport in-store activation. The activation was to re-introduce sport and play to the family unit. Encouraging all to take part in play and in doing so encouraging kids to move and play. The aim was to create an experience that ignited the kid’s imagination and showed parents the importance of play in kids development. 

How did the initial pitch/brainstorming phase go?

This project was a fast one having 5 weeks from ideation to the first launch. We all brainstormed around the brief as well as the research around UAE families, kids and their thoughts and ideas on play. From this, we developed the idea of turning the store into a playground making use of all areas of the store rather than just the event space. 

This was received well which gave us a great basis to build out from. We had a very clear graphic and visual language from Nike, which helped with the development of the idea. 

As always with the work we do for kids, our brainstorming was around what does a 10-year-old want to do rather than what we think is cool for kids. We have to put ourselves in their shoes, understanding what they have grown up with, what references they will understand, and what will excite them enough to put their phone down or share it! 

What was the process behind ideating the concept?


Once the idea was formed the team split off and took different areas to develop - from looking at the materials, colours and textures that would bring this to life to really building out the full journey of the kids and their parents in the store. We look at every aspect from the in-store experience and how we recognise their participation to scripting for the staff members and how to continue the play at home.

Once we have the full journey and all touchpoints worked out, we then began to merge this with the visual playground world we had created. We not only had to work out what the store trail would look like but also what the 3 games were going to be. Building out from classic kids play, we created 3 different games that changed over the 30 days. First a climbing wall, then to basketball, then to a disco heaven! 

Our process not only includes the design and creative but everything down to the rules and the scheduling of the games. 

What was the production process like?

We worked with our sister company WeMake to produce this activation. In Dubai, our fabrication partner Spectrum did the build for us. As an agency, we pride ourselves on having a strong understanding of production which helps a lot in the creative process as we do not create things that can’t be built or imagined. Especially with the tight deadline, this became extremely important. 

Our in house team took it from concept to the fully designed space. We cover all aspects from 2D to 3D, production and tech, that way we have a very detailed understanding of the project. With many partners involved globally having a very clear hold of the project from us means that everyone is on the same page in development. 

When creating a kids experience, there are always more health and safety requirements to go through, outside of the usual safety measures. We also must make sure the materials aren’t toxic and that everything is made to withstand the sheer volume of kids on it. We worked extensively with our production partners on materials sections that fit this as well as that fit into Nike’s sustainability measures.

What was the biggest challenge during production? How did you overcome it?


As always, working globally across multiple languages and time zones will always bring up issues and problems. However, we just made sure everything was extremely clear and detailed. From our side, communication is key and keeping the department heads communicating directly from the beginning for the project was key for us. 

The other challenge we had was time. This was a fast project that needed a big build. So we broke each section into chunks understanding what was the biggest build and needed the most time so we could work on these pieces first.

We knew this space would attract many children, so we created a team of people that were always on hand to replace things if needed and to train the ambassadors. The turnout on average is 8,000 kids per day, Nike Dubai’s highest foot traffic ever. 

What’s the main message of this project and why does it matter?

The main message is really to reframe the idea of sport in family life. We create projects to remind kids that play is fun and taking the rules away allows for the imagination to run free. We use these projects to also encourage parents to understand that play helps with cognitive behaviour and in the long term helps kids better develop basic social skills. 

Our larger aim was to really inspire people on the importance and power of sport - changing the perception of what sport is and what it can offer as something that is fun, positive and crucial for personal development. 

What do you hope it achieves for the brand?

We hope it confirms Nike’s place as a sports brand that is there to help children and the next generation not only to be active but develop who they are, by giving the kids and parents the confidence in being active. Also, it shows the brand is fun, and that sport can be fun and non-competitive.



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