The glory of football season, and Nike ads

Nike LogoThe long-awaited football season is upon us, and I spent last weekend planted in front of the TV taking in some fantastic games. Part of watching football (for me, at least) is watching the new crop of ads that various companies roll out to coincide with the new season – What is their brand? Who is their audience? What are they trying to do? Are they accomplishing this goal elegantly or stumbling?

Nike’s new commercial for Nike Football featuring Shawne Merriman and Steven Jackson, directed by Michael Mann (Heat, Collateral, Miami Vice), is brilliant. In it, the two players are shown running seamlessly through different games of their season as their uniforms, opponents, and the weather changes. First we follow Merriman, as he makes a series of great defensive plays. When he finally sacks a quarterback and causes a fumble, Steven Jackson recovers the fumble and starts to run as our perspective shifts to follow him. Jackson vaults a defender, spins and jukes and finally gets stood up at a goal line by a big group of white-jerseyed defenders. He seems consumed by them, until at the last moment his arms, holding the ball, emerge and stretch toward a touchdown. He seems sure to make it, but right before he does the screen goes black and the words “Leave Nothing” appear. The sounds in the commercial – from the churning orchestral soundtrack (from Last of the Mohicans) to the grunts and explosive collisions of the players – speak to the toil and effort of the game.

Nike is known for this type of ad – and their ability to form an emotional connection with the viewer using dramatic imagery from sports. With their diverse businesses (apparel, shoes, etc.) it is all about relating their swoosh to a feeling. That way, a t-shirt with a swoosh is no longer just a t-shirt. It’s Steven Jackson stretching for a touchdown against all odds.

Death of the internal combustion engine? Great scott!

Doc from Back to the FutureAustin Startup and Wired pointed me to a story about an Austin-area company, EEStor, that is promising to revolutionize batteries the way we know them.

Every battery that we use in our everyday lives is electrochemical in nature – that is, it depends on a chemical reaction to both receive and output an electric charge. The speed of these reactions is limited, and that limit is the reason why charging a battery takes as long as it does and why batteries can only provide so much output when called upon. It’s the reason why today’s electric car takes all night to charge and can only be driven 50 miles afterward. Battery technology is the main thing holding electric cars back from being a viable alternative.

But what about a battery that charges in 5 minutes, and allows you to drive 500 miles? Whoa.

That’s what EEStor purports to have. The technology is based on the other type of popular energy storage means that is used every day inside our electronics – the capacitor. It does not depend on a chemical reaction, but rather stores energy by allowing charged particles to “stick” inside it. Historically, capacitors are only fit for holding small charges for a short period of time, but EEStor says they have created an “ultracapacitor” (flux capacitor?) which has the fast charge/discharge of a capacitor and the storage capacity of a traditional battery.

Anyone who remembers the cold fusion debacle from 1989 will take this with a grain of salt, but EEStor is a venture-backed company which apparently has developed a working prototype . . . but hasn’t come out with a practically usable product and a way to manufacture on a larger scale yet. And there are plenty of skeptics who say doing something like this is on the border between chemistry and alchemy.

Despite those facts, it’s exciting to see an avenue that could knock down the single largest technological hurdle between consumers and clean energy. Even a product that has half of the capability they claim would be nothing short of revolutionary.

Apple and Starbucks, location marketing history in the making

Something very cool just happened today . . . your life just got more integrated.

Apple announced today that when you are sitting in a Starbucks with your iPhone (or the NEW iPod Touch, the iPhone without the phone), a new button will automatically appear on your Apple device where you can go to iTunes and buy the song that is playing in the Starbucks you are sitting in at that moment. The song will then be downloaded from the Starbucks wifi hotspot directly to your device, and off you go.

The availability of the Starbucks buy-it-now button is a harbinger of things to come. It’s a brave new marketing world, where the context isn’t just in your Google search box and the results it sends back, it’s where and when you are as a person – and what your desires or needs might be at the time. Apple and Starbucks would be ahead of their time if this wasn’t already their time.

The buy-it-now feature will also be available on any laptop running iTunes. All of Apple’s exciting announcements here.