Nike Unlimited London. A special send off for Nike’s British elite athletes before the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. This event involved 200 members of the public who were lucky enough to be part of the parade down Regent Street alongside the track and field Olympians, including Mo Farah himself.
This Nike Unlimited London event was a special one off event. It was advertised at a low level where a few ads would meet the running demographic but very little else was done to get it out there. The only information given with the advertising for the event was:
Our Nike athletes are ready, our NRC coaches are ready, our pacers are ready – now we just need you!
This initial low key nature of the event was soon very understandable when it was announced upon meeting that we would be joined by 20 of Britain’s top athletes.
The whole event was being filmed by about 5 cameras and media people who were following the action at all times, getting lots of shots to help make the day a successful promotion event.
Once signing up for a free place online, all participants were told to meet in Golden Square, Soho for the mysterious event to start at 11:00. This was easily reached by the Piccadilly Line on the underground which was very quiet for the early Sunday event. After arriving early at about 10:00, there was small bits and pieces of activity around the square with signs of Nike staff organising logistics and security of the event.
By 10:30 it was much clearer what was going on with the Nike+ Run Club Pacers and Coaches arriving, bringing life and atmosphere to the event. These Pacers are not Nike employees but volunteers who work with the Nike+ Run Club in London. They easily stood out with their bright yellow shirts where they started organising the crowd of 200 lucky people who had signed up for the Unlimited London event.
Before the event, it was also released to entrants that there would be some shirts available for free on a first come, first served basis. Despite this, it was clear that they had more than enough shirts for all of the events participants. These were plain cotton shirts with the branding of Unlimited London across the front, identifying all those who were taking part of this event.
As well as the free shirts, there were a range of other products on offer for the crowd as we waiting to be told more information. The brightly coloured Pacers were handing out free ice cream, food and drink along with more Unlimited London items such as flags and blow up tubes.
At this point early into the event, there was still much speculation over what we were to be doing throughout the day. I spoke to a few of the volunteer pacers who claimed they had only been briefed on what was happening earlier that morning, with these details still not being able to be passed onto us spectators. However, it wasn’t too much later that they started making announcements.
Just to add further to the atmosphere of the event, there were a great team of four drummers who kept up great intensity and sound, getting everyone more excited for what was about to come.
These announcements were done by Cory, the leader of the Nike+ Run Club who was also leading the days Unlimited London event. He was great at getting the crowd going and into the event, with chants of Nike’s tagline of #JustDoIt. Here he announced the first bits of information for the day, telling us that we would be walking down to Piccadilly Circus where we would be meeting 20 of Britain’s top athletes.
Regent Street Parade
At about midday, we were all gathered together and paraded out of Golden Square. The Nike Pacers led the way, taking us down towards Piccadilly Circus, chanting and making lots of noise to make our presence known. Some of the general public who were intrigued with the ongoings joined in and started to follow suit.
Once at Piccadilly Circus, the crowd of 200 Unlimited London shirt wearers were organised into two lines, forming a guard of honour. At this point, it was still unknown what to fully expect until a procession of blacked out Land Rovers pulled up alongside everyone and one by one out came Team GB members of the Rio Olympic track and field team.
They were each greeted with large cheering and confetti with each athlete coming out one at a time. These included European Champions such as Martyn Rooney and British record holders of Laura Muir!
Finally after 19 athletes had fully emerged from the cars, police cars were to be seen and one more car pulled up where inevitably Mo Farah came out to a brilliant reception where his great popularity was undoubtedly shown by the crowd after his 12:59.29 clocking at the Anniversary Games the day before.
Once all of the athletes had emerged, the full parade started. The whole of Regent Street had been cordoned off especially for this Unlimited London event, where the 200 spectators in their white shirts were able to mix with the athletes along the way up Regent Street, up to Niketown.
This was an incredible experience being able to get up close with the athletes themselves and have the opportunity to talk to them. They were all extremely good with the crowd, taking in the atmosphere and having a great time.
Mo Farah led this parade, followed closely on both sides by large body guards, protecting him from the onlookers. He himself was also having a great time, filming most of the parade on his phone for Facebook Live.
At the end of the parade, we came to the front of Niketown where an Unlimited London speech was given by Games of Thrones actor, Alfie Allen. This again was a promotion speech for the Nike athletes off to the Rio Olympics, but also about their new Unlimited range which was to be released on the 4th August.
From here, the parade continued only a few more metres before entering through the front of Niketown, to the back of the ground floor.
Once inside of Niketown, the Unlimited London spectators were at this point held back from the athletes who gathered together at the Unlimited stand situated at the back of the ground floor. Here they continued with the promotional pictures with British Athletics, and prepared for further pictures after the Unlimited London event had finished.
At this point – after the group picture – some of the top athletes were taken away. This included Mo Farah who went straight off out of the building as he was required, as were most others, to finish off interviews and other Olympic Media Day responsibilities. The whole day for the athletes was a media day where they were doing their duties of professional athletes by carrying out the final promotional work before they fly out to their holding camp before the Rio Olympics in a few weeks.
When the likes of Mo Farah were taken away, an announcement was made once more by Cory that the event was over and the Unlimited London branded viewers were free to go or stay around to meet more of the athletes.
Inevitably, most of the people stayed around where we were allowed to go into the athletes section and speak with them before they were required for their portrait photos to be taken. Again, the athletes were all great with the crowd, with the likes of Richard Kilty being really relaxed with pictures and approaching the spectators.
As the media work continued for the athletes, it was quite quickly made aware to them that they were to be required to have one of the Unlimited London shirts to wear in their pictures. Therefore, as only the spectators had these shirts, the top elite athletes – who were all wearing their elite GB kit – had to swap their shirts with the public who had the white shirts on. This was great for a lucky few who were able to get their hands on some of the elite GB kit for free as the athletes were willing to swap and sign some of their shirts.
Personally, I was lucky enough to swap with one of Britain’s top 400m runners, Rabah Yousif. Some had to keep theirs for further interviews later in the day, but those who were able to give up their kit were very kind and it was a nice touch and great end to the day.
At the back of the ground floor, there was also a Nike Unlimited range stand. Here was a selection of the up and coming new Nike footwear which is to be worn in the Olympics by the sponsored athletes. This display was very cool as the public were able to see first hand for the first time some of the new technology Nike is using such as 3D printing methods on their new spikes.
Overall, the Unlimited London experience was incredible. It is not everyday that you, as a member of the public is able to freely mix with some of the best athletes in the world, let alone meet and walk alongside Mo Farah. The athletes themselves were great and I would also like to thank the Nike team for putting on a brilliant event which everyone greatly enjoyed.