Nerf launches into NIL marketing, AI imaging with social content

    • Hasbro’s Nerf brand has two new social media campaigns for the holidays: One featuring elite college athletes and the other focused on an NBA All-Star and artificial-intelligence imaging technology, according to information shared with Marketing Dive.
    • The brand’s first foray into working with NCAA student-athletes showcases 12 top players competing in a Nerf Blitz relay race where the prize is the opportunity to douse the competition with a Super Soaker.
    • In a separate effort, NBA All-Star Luka Doncic shows off Nerf’s new Elite 2.0 Motoblitz and Viper Strike blasters via Neural Radiance Fields (conveniently abbreviated as NeRFs) that help turn two-dimensional content into 3D environments.

    Nerf’s latest push targets a broad range of sports fans with fun and engaging content, reflecting how social media is evolving to have a bigger focus on entertaining audiences similar to traditional broadcasts. It also comes as the brand is expanding into action sports, per press materials. 

    Nerf’s approach leverages the power of collegiate athletes’ social media presence, reflecting growing brand interest in name, image and likeness (NIL) partnerships. More than a year since the NCAA loosened restrictions on working with college athletes, marketers are beginning to find their footing, with Nerf joining brands such as Nissan, Reese’s, and Outback in launching programs that leverage NIL deals to promote their products. 

    For its first foray into NIL marketing, the toy blaster brand has teamed up with a dozen athletes (whose individual followings on various platforms range from 28,500 to 3 million) to hold friendly competitions. One TikTok video from Oregon women’s basketball star Sedona Price shows the athlete engaging in a contest with a friend that involves shooting a Nerf hoop basket and then using a Nerf blaster to knock down plastic cup targets. The loser gets drenched by a Super Soaker. As part of the effort, Nerf will donate products to charity organizations selected by the athletes in their home communities. 

    Nerf’s second campaign for the holiday season uses AI imaging technology to feature Luke Doncic and Nerf blasters in an environment that can depict one moment of time from many different angles, similar to an effect in the “Matrix” movies. The videos, which are available on the brand and Doncic’s TikTok and Instagram channels, show both the content and a brief making-of segment.

    Nerf is just one of the many marketers looking at technologies that create more immersive experiences this holiday season. Corona, for instance, has launched a virtual “Tannenpalm” tree lot for consumers to explore. Foot Locker stores have become Pokemon Go stops and gyms, and several brands are experimenting with Snapchat lenses for their retail and entertainment efforts.


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