Building intrigue with SMS gamification

Building intrigue with SMS gamification
Photo Credit: Nike NRC (NTB)

Text messaging provides you with a quick way to contact your customers. Though it’s simple, there are so many layers that you can add—turning it into something incredibly memorable.

There’s a creative side to SMS that not many people see. For this article, We’ll focus on the gamification element.

Nike: No Turning Back

We had the opportunity to attend an amazing event organised by Nike called No Turning Back (NTB).

How they used SMS for this event was both creative and effective. Let’s break it down from start to finish.

SMS Services Used:

  • SMS alerts
  • SMS reminders
  • Geolocation SMS
  • 2 Way SMS
  • SMS keywords
  • MMS

Start Line

Some of us here at Burst SMS are loyal Nike fans, and they have fed our healthy shoe addictions. We participated in many fitness events in the past, making us the perfect target for their VIP re-marketing campaign.

After we clicked on one of their Instagram ads, it led us to a mysterious page, detailing a free mystery race event without further explanation. We had to gather three mates to form a team of four.

We signed up but took our time gathering a team, and of course, forgot about it. Thankfully an SMS reminder saved the day, and we put our dream together.

Game Day

As promised, they sent us a perfectly timed text message 24hrs before our start time.

Once we arrived at the location, it blew us away.

Everything was on point. The interior design, custom team uniforms, beauty bar, change rooms, treadmills, were amazing. All the little details were magnificent.

The photos don’t do it justice, but here’s a taste.

Photo Credit: Nike NRC (NTB)

The Rules

After weeks of intrigue, they finally told us what we were doing: an SMS-based Amazing Race style competition.

They gave each team an iPhone to share, which tracked our locations and pace. They awarded a prize to the team that finished first.

Here’s how it worked:

  1. Once the clock struck 8 PM, they sent an SMS alert to each team’s phone
  2. To leave the building, we needed to reply with the correct SMS keyword. For correct and incorrect replies, they had autoresponders already setup
  3. If you answered correctly, it asked us to show the gatekeeper, who typed in a special SMS keyword response on our phone to unlock the next clue
  4. When we left the building, an SMS chatbot activated. We interacted with it to get clues and more.

Here are some words and phrases we could send to the bot:

  • We are here: If we believed that we were in the right location, we needed to respond with this phrase exactly. The bot would congratulate us and provide us with the next clue or tell us that we were in the wrong location.
  • How far: The bot would say that we were within 100m radius of the location or not
  • Clue: The first time you do this, you’ll receive an MMS clue. The second time you do this, you’ll receive the exact address. It takes 5mins off your time each time you use this.
  • Help: If by chance, your team suffered an injury, we text this to get help from Nike.

Photo Credit: Nike NRC (NTB)

Finish Line

The last stop of the race was five flights of stairs, which turned out to be a big Nike-themed roof-top party.

After we pressed a big red button, we completed the race. Nike displayed a live leader board with teams that completed the race, ranked by time.

They collected our phones, dropped beats, and poured us celebratory drinks. The view was stunning, to say the least.

Surprisingly, every team had the same thing to say: “Why don’t more companies use text messaging like this?”. Some also said, “I didn’t know text messages could do that.”

The response was overwhelmingly positive, although there would be some custom SMS API work needed for anything location-based, it’s the interactive portion that people liked the most.

Nike turned their race into a game with SMS, and now anyone who participated in it will spread the word and remember this for a long time. This is the ultimate win that any marketing campaign strives for, and Nike accomplished this with text messaging as it’s backbone.

Photo Credit: Nike NRC (NTB)
The amazing part about this campaign is that the finish line wasn’t actually where we finished the race. Nike was heavily invested in this event, and they didn’t want this to be a one-off effort. They strategically had their staff members drop subtle hints and rumours that this was actually a 3 part event in a series of mysterious races. Lone behold, just a week later, we received a special invitation via text for the second part of this series.

Keep it up Nike, I’m impressed. Take our money, you’ve earned it.

Photo Credit: Nike NRC (NTB)