In November 2021, AnalogFolk launched Nike’s ‘Mind Sets’ - the movement series designed for the mind with the aim to uplift.
Working in partnership with Nike, AnalogFolk developed the strategy and core concept of the program, including execution. The platform aims to leverage the healing powers of movement to shift focus onto feeling. The first exercise as part of the program is to ask yourself ‘how are you feeling?’.
Nike Mind Sets delivers curated and custom movements with expert content and brand experiences. Each of these help move the mind as well as the body.
The ongoing 365 program rolled out globally across the Nike ecosystem including the Nike app, NRC, and NTC, email, and athlete channels.
Originally conceived to address the problem of burnout, the Mind Sets project soon broadened out. But for AnalogFolk that burnout was part of a much broader conversation around mental wellbeing and the focus broadened. Nike exists to serve and bring value to athletes and its members. So the mission changed. Mind Sets would use Nike’s platform to give some insight into how movement can positively impact mental health.
Everyone involved instantly understood why Nike wanted to do this. “I think it's the first piece of work I've ever worked on where we didn't have to set up the problem,” says Carren O’Keefe, executive creative director at AnalogFolk Amsterdam. “It's such a lived experience for everyone right now. Just the general state of the world, we don't even need to talk about everything that's happened that's led to the situation that we're in because we're all going through it. It's different for everyone, but we're all going through it.”
In late 2020 Carren got so fed up with advertising telling us how miserable we all are that she pushed for a completely different kind of creative messaging. She remembers thinking: “I don't wanna hear any more about how we're going to ‘get through it together.’ In fact, at the end of 2020, I wanted to push us into creative surrealism – to escape. But two years into this thing, we've moved past escapism. Focusing on real conversations and real tools to properly address the long-term systemic impact of all of this – it's not even just Covid, it's just the state of the world right now – is more important now than it probably ever has been.”
Aware that the problem was tangible, Nike Mind Sets would be “uplifting and optimistic,” and “focused on using movement to positively impact your mental wellbeing as a solution. We were all in it together. And now we need to be reflecting on ourselves at this point to be in it together.”
The solution, for Nike, is movement – something core to the brand as well as something that undeniably impacts mental wellbeing. “But also because they exist to serve athletes,” says Carren. “Pro athletes, but also “if you have a body you're an athlete” – so everyone.
“This is an important conversation for everyone to have, but for Nike to come out and start this conversation, it really can have that cultural ripple effect,” says Carren. “Which is kind of what you saw with a lot of their athletes coming out and speaking about their own mental wellbeing, like Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles. It really sparked the conversation.”
Mind Sets is personal for everyone involved in it. “This really felt like a passion project for everyone. And that’s because it felt so meaningful," says Carren.
Everyone who worked on it had their own personal mental wellbeing story. Carren’s journey to becoming the creative leader she is has been inherently tied to her own mindset and wellbeing – something that she reflected upon in a recent podcast episode with DOPA
(The Department of Pro-Activeness). Taking care of her mental wellbeing has always felt like something for her, rather than for the team she works in. She’s always liked the idea of leading from the front, not from the top. “I really believe my role is to make my team better at what they do and ask 'how can I help them?' as opposed to 'what are they doing for me?' And so focusing on yourself might feel like a selfish thing, but the reality is the things that I was talking about [on the podcast] in terms of a lot of the stuff that I've seen in my career (like people stepping on or putting people down and all these things), some of it is a mentality – there are people like that in this industry, but I also think some of it is leaders just become so depleted.
“I know when the way I respond to someone, or something I do, or a decision I make is not true to myself and my beliefs about taking care of the team - that’s what’s happening. In the podcast she mentions how the in-flight safety guidance is always to attach your own oxygen mask before you help someone else with theirs as an analogy for taking care of your own wellbeing as a leader. It's a cliché for a reason. It really is so true.”
Navigating our way out of a pandemic with the spectre of the Great Resignation looming, being a capable leader means taking care of the mental wellbeing of yourself and those you work with. “We're sick of hearing, it's ‘unprecedented times’ but it really is from a leadership standpoint, because navigating what to do through Covid, both for your teams, your work, your clients. No one's ever dealt with something like this before. You’re dealing with your own grief and feelings while managing your team’s grief and feelings along with your clients’ grief and feelings. We're supposed to have all the answers. We don't. We do however instil trust in our teams, instil trust in ourselves, where we find a way to figure it out together. At the same time, we've got the Great Resignation going on, which legitimately keeps me awake at night, because talent is the magic of our industry. But I do think the good thing is that it is making a lot of leaders wake up and have to be better now. Which is going to have a really positive, ripple impact on the industry. We look at certain historical or societal points in our time as pivotal external moments that fundamentally changed the industry. Obviously Covid being one of them. This will be one of them. And we'll be for the better.”
On the DOPA podcast, Carren speaks about bad experiences she had in the past with leaders and how she wants to avoid emulating them. Thankfully, amid a talent crunch, “people shouldn't put up with that shit anymore,” she says. “That's the power that people have now, especially right now. If you work with or for someone like that, don't let them affect you, but also you don't have to deal it. Be a part of the change because you can be more than ever before.”
Going back way before Covid hit, Carren’s been interested in how we can change our minds for the better. As a trained yoga teacher, she has often reflected on a saying common in yoga that “nothing is good or bad – thinking makes it so.” That is one of the thoughts that led to the approach AnalogFolk took with Mind Sets. “So much of the stress, anxiety and negative emotions that negatively impact our mental wellbeing are tied to the way we respond to things that we can't control,” she says. “We can only control what we do and the way we respond to things and how that's going to impact our mental state.”
What’s most fascinating about that is considering how you respond to situations can physically improve your capacity for empathy. Carren is intrigued by the concept of mirror neurons, explained by the pithy line, ‘what fires together, wires together.’
Carren remembers a transformative moment for her, after years of yoga talk. “They're always talking about gratitude and all these things, and I was like, OK, yeah, I know it sounds nice, but it feels very ethereal or fluffy or woo woo.” But she stumbled upon an article about gratitude which first taught her about the synaptic cleft. “It was the science behind why gratitude actually changes your brain,” she says. “And ever since I've just been obsessed because I believe in the other side of things, but it was the science side of things that made it real to me.”
That is one of the foundations of Mind Sets: “What we do in our bodies literally affects our brains. And what we do in our brains literally affects our bodies. They're not separate.” One of the lines AnalogFolk wrote for Nike to use in this platform is "what does your mind need from your body today?" Because, as Carren notes, a lot of the time people say the opposite. “Sometimes when we feel sad, the last thing we want to do is move. But the truth is moving could be the very thing that is the best for our minds.”
Writing was central to getting the tone right and developing the nuance of the Mind Sets idea. “We knew what we wanted to do was really take this moment to pivot on Nike's hyper performance tone,” says Carren. “It's not that hyper performance is bad. This is the compliment to that. We know that Nike in general is always going to be about performance and being your best. So we wanted Mind Sets have that more self-reflective tone.”
Carren has done copywriting for Nike for 10+ years. “Typical Nike copywriting is very performance focused. You start with a verb. They’re a sports company. It’s all about action.” But this time it felt different. The lead headline for Mind Sets is 'how are you feeling?' The fact that it's a question as opposed to a statement makes a drastic difference to the tone. “Every piece of copy has that intentionality to it,” says Carren.
She adds that the name, Mind Sets, says a lot about its purpose. Splitting apart ‘mindset’ to emphasise both the meaning of mental state as well as doing sets for the mind – the idea of working out with the intention of improving your mental wellbeing as opposed to just the physical benefits that you will also get as a part of it.
In the months since Mind Sets launched, a hefty bank of content has now built up, featuring many Nike experts and athletes, things like Audio-Guided Run Walks in NRC or NTC Live x Suco dance and meditation sessions. All depending on how you feel today.
“To me, the biggest thing is starting the conversation and getting people to start thinking about their own mental wellbeing,” says Carren. “People are talking about it now. But there's still so many people who aren't, especially within our industry.”