OKAYAFRICA X NIKE SHOWCASE AFRICA TO THE WORLD

We are weeks into the tournament and somehow we are still talking about Nigeria’s World Cup Collection. No need to roll your eyes though as this is not another discussion on style and fashion. Instead, we’re here to highlight the greater significance of Nike’s project through the newfound interest and awareness it has generated for a nation and continent that stems well beyond the world of soccer.

It was only right for Nike to link up with OkayAfrica, a news and media platform that celebrates all facets of African culture for a North American audience. A few weeks ago, the two threw a Nigeria pre-World Cup watch party in Brooklyn as an opportunity to leverage the hype around this collection with all the work that OkayAfrica has done and continues to do.
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The whole project is enlightening to anyone. For me specifically, who has grown so used to hearing and seeing all the negative and unfortunate things about Africa, it is refreshing to finally be exposed to a new image that celebrates the vibrancy of a culture in spite of all this adversity. I am thankful that soccer now serves as a conduit to Africa’s art, music, food, and culture, however, I realize that the beauty of this continent was always there for me if I had only looked for it.

OkayAfrica remains committed to this work, and we were lucky to have spent time with them where they spoke at length on how the World Cup has reinvigorated this effort to showcase Africa not just to a diaspora community, but to the world. Read our full interview with OkayAfrica’s Director of Events/Activations Sinat Giwa, with Editor-in-Chief Rachel Hislop chiming in below.


Can you tell us about how you/OkayAfrica and Nike connected for the project?
We’d been planning events for World Cup 2018 for a while now, knowing that it was a key moment for our community of Africans globally. Once we knew the five African countries that would be making it to the World Cup – Morocco, Senegal, Egypt, Nigeria, and Tunisia – we began to plan around ways to reach the parts of our community that represent each country respectively. Nike approached us about activating around the Nigeria team kits because of our strong connection to the Nigerian Diaspora community, especially in New York. We knew that this event would not only be a pivotal moment for our core sports audience globally but that this collaboration would underscore how big of a moment these kits would be for Nigerian culture.

Why did Nike’s Naija campaign resonate with you specifically and why is it important to OkayAfrica?
The campaign resonated because of its focus on the culture of soccer and how that extends outside of the game. The campaign was about our culture (a portion of our team that worked on the project is Nigerian). The game is central, but the players, the community rallying, the music, the art, and the fashion surrounding the games have always been just as exciting for OkayAfrica to highlight. It’s what we do.

Can you give us a brief on the creative concept behind the event – bringing in the IG photographers, including music in the mix, etc?
We had the idea to bring a Nigerian party 3.0 to life with a series of wonderful partnerships with dope creatives, movers, and shakers in our community. This was an opportunity to once again leverage our incredible relationships to underscore a pivotal moment. We wanted to create a proper Naija shindig with food, roaming photography and of course JAMS, as music is the framework on which OkayAfrica was built. As for musical talent, Moniki came through with the Afro-Brazilian vibes to remind us that Africans are worldwide and of the connections between Brazil and Nigeria. Moma is one of the best to ever do it, so we had to have him there, and Tunez is the top Nigerian DJ Worldwide – no question. Getting Burna Boy in the mix was incepted way back when we heard his latest project “Outside,” so when the opportunity to add him as a surprise performer came, we knew this was the perfect moment. Having Izzy Odigie solo dancing on the stage, the guys with fresh “Naija” and OkayAfrica logo haircuts as a nod to being in Brooklyn, it all came together wonderfully. Overall we kept it simple with a couple of great photo moments, good vibes, food, and really great music. If you’ve ever been to an OkayAfrica party you know it’s always just a moment to have our people gather and have fun.

The visuals captured are also a major part to the event. How did you fall upon the three photographers chosen to capture the spirit of Naija Worldwide Bash?
We work with Travis Matthews fairly often, since he shot our Fall 2017 campaign for Okayplayer clothing. He’s so talented and amazing at shooting on the fly. His event photography highlights that skill. I’ve been following Bukunmi Grace for a while now and knew she needed to be a part of capturing this event when we first started ideating, and Shako Oteka is the man! He came up from North Carolina on the fly, shot on his own accord and shared these amazing images with me and the team after. I had to include them. It was really special to get these varying perspectives of the event.

What do events like the Naija Worldwide Bash mean to American culture?
It means we (Africans) are here – and we’ve been here! So much so that the spirit of our content and when we gather resonates heavily with the diaspora and those who are searching for ways to connect more intimately with African culture.

What about on a global standpoint?
Same thing. Africa to the World! Our goal as a brand and an editorial platform is to connect people globally to the greatness and diversity of the culture that is cultivated on the continent, and this event was an extension of that work.

What are your comments on the turnout and how the event went?
It was a special one. To look out on the crowd and see not only people from all parts of the continent and the diaspora, but also attendees who may have been discovering our brand for the first time via Nike was really a warming feeling. For those who have been to an OkayAfrica party before, this was a culmination of all of the things we like to provide, good food, vibes, and music. And for those that were experiencing this for the first time, it was the perfect introduction to how we celebrate.

What’s the future for OkayAfrica and soccer?
Rachel: On the website for the World Cup, we’ve tapped several experts in the field to focus on the African countries in the competition—Morocco, Senegal, Egypt, Nigeria, and Tunisia.

We’ll have articles spanning everything from in-depth looks at the African teams in the competition, profiles on rising stars like Egypt’s Mohamed Salah to the afrobeat music being played in locker rooms before the games, and well pieces about how players are standing up to racism from fans.


We thank OkayAfrica for the opportunity they have provided to us to showcase their own work. We are confident their efforts will keep more eyes on Africa well beyond this summer.


IMAGES BY TRAVIS MATTHEWS


IMAGES BY BUKUNMI GRACE


IMAGES BY SHAKO OTEKA

IS THIS NIKE’S BEST CAMPAIGN FOR WORLD CUP 2018?

We’re talking about Nike’s efforts for the full Nigeria National Team’s 2018 World Cup collection – of course. While the sportswear giant has come out with a solid roster of releases for all its sponsored teams for the upcoming global soccer event, it’s safe to say that the buzz surrounding the Super Eagles’ collection is by far Nike’s greatest – the fact that there were three million pre-sale orders for the home kit alone pretty much affirms that. But why is it so great? It’s all about the concept, or rather the ethos behind the campaign. And there’s one word to sum it all up: Naija.

“Naija” is a new term that both Nike and Nigeria’s youth are pushing that represents the spirit of contemporary Nigeria. While the West African country has had its fair share of the negative stigma, it’s often easy to forget the greatness, creativity, passion, and love that comes from its people. Naija is meant to help people see all of that and then some. Spearheaded by the Super Eagle’s young-aged team (the majority of the players are under 25), Naija – or at times referred to as “For Naija” – embodies not only the Nigerian youth’s spirit but also the identities and characters present in the youth-filled team.

This ethos is also pretty evident in the actual design itself, an energy-infused imprint courtesy of Nike Football Design Director Dan Farron and team. “We built this kit and collection based on the players’ full identities. We started to see trends in attitude and energy connecting the athletes to music, fashion and more. They are part of a resoundingly cool culture,” Farron states. But while it’s obvious that Nigerians today understand the new cultural pulse within their country, the same can be felt on a global stand-point, thanks to the diaspora Nigerian communities found the world over. “Naija fashion radiates, and its food is celebrated from Brooklyn, New York, to Peckham, London. In the United States and England, along with other locales with large Nigerian populations, the exuberance of Naija culture is resounding — spurred by family, friends, and football,” Nike explains about the collection.

It’s even felt here in Los Angeles within the Kicks to the Pitch office we call home, where Nike was gracious enough to send us the kits along with the collection’s Superfly and Vapor cleats that continues both the design and Naija concept. From that, we’ve put together an exclusive closer look at the offerings. The collection as a whole actually offers more than that, and actually more than your typical Nike World Cup release. It consists of a home kit, an away version, pre-match and training apparel, jackets and the aforementioned Superfly and Vapor soccer boots, which officially drops today – the only sad thing about the boots is that they won’t be worn be worn by the Super Eagles during the World Cup, but they can be worn by you with them in spirit! Check out our photo shoot throughout, then head over to Nike.com to grab yourself what we consider as Nike’s best campaign for World Cup 2018.

NIGERIA WC KIT: HAS THE HYPE BECOME A REAL STRUGGLE?

I have had a real problem ever since February. As many of you might remember, February was the time Nike chose to officially reveal Nigeria’s World Cup collection. In its entirety, the offering blew me away. I simply cannot remember feeling the same way about any other World Cup release in my lifetime.

The collection had that instant pull yet ironically Nike has kept us at a distance from it. When the collection was presented, I wrongly thought its release was imminent as in previous World Cup cycles where Nike has often used the month of March to release all of its federations’ kits. It was only after reading Nike’s press release on the collection itself that I became more concerned and puzzled. The press release did not make any mention of a specific release date even though Nike’s subsequent press releases on national team kits have. I would argue that release dates are the whole point of these press releases.

I, therefore, sought answers. Initially, I relied on social media and my usual go-to sources for new kit intel. I couldn’t find anything and to make matters worse, it seemed as if no one was willing to offer any answers either. I remember reaching out to Soccer.com a few months later. I had already prepared myself for the disappointment though as I have never had any success in getting real answers to my questions anytime I have reached out to them or any other customer service representative at other major soccer retailers. As expected, all Soccer.com could tell me was to stay tuned to their social media platforms.

It was only a short while ago that I finally found something on Twitter. It was a response from Nike revealing that the release date for this collection would be June 1st. This tidbit of information should have provided some relief yet I still find myself being consumed by this subject still.

With the release now only a matter of days away, I find myself more concerned with the question of whether I’ll be able to get the kit at all. As I said before, Nigeria’s kit release is unlike any other. It seems everyone wants it whether it be the casual or more passionate fan. At the same time, Nike will not make things any easier. While in previous years fans had a few months to buy their favorite kits before a World Cup, the window for this is now severely limited to a few days. The decision is none other than a deliberate attempt from Nike to have us feed into the hype. Unfortunately, we have no other choice as I, like everyone else, wants to have this kit by the start of the tournament.

As much as a marketing move, the delayed release date is also a smart business decision. Nike has ensured that people will pay the suggested retail price for the Nigeria kit which was likely not the case for adidas’ World Cup home kits. Out now since November, many fans have surely capitalized on some sort of discount ranging from 15% on the adidas website to the 25% to 30% off discount some soccer retailers here in the US had around Christmas time. Fans now will be lucky if they get free shipping but of course, the real concern for me is not so much price, but whether Nike and its retailers will be able to adequately meet the demand considering it will indeed be high. Again, they have not left themselves much time for this as every fan will want to have their jersey by the start of the tournament two weeks later.

Now, some of you may have noticed that I have not expressed any concern on whether the kit will live up to its hype. Despite obviously having more than enough time to dwell on this possibility, I have no doubt that the Nigeria kit will be everything I imagine it to be in person. Before I worried that Nike would make the mistake of not offering the match version of this kit as it has done with its smaller federations. Here is perhaps where you might be better able to understand the craze I’ve been driven to as I have found myself closely examining press release photos just to verify that Nike will most likely offer match jerseys. Recent reports for the demand of the jersey should also confirm this.

Still, the wait for Nigeria’s jersey has not been easy. I know many people surely share my struggle so please comment below on how you feel about this jersey and how you have coped with its long-anticipated release.

Images via Nike.