5 Gamification examples that make Nike Run Club a top running app

Successful apps are not only good at user acquisition, but they manage to sustain long-term engagement in their users. However, only a few apps manage this. Research states lack of engagement or perceived value are included in the main reasons for user churn. 77% of users stop engaging with an app after three months. So how does an app like Nike Run Club, dating to 2012, drive retention by 21% and retain a position as one of the top 10 running apps?

Mobile app engagement & churn

Essentially, to foster long-term user engagement, your app needs to be both fun and rewarding, as well as establish a clear sense of value. An effective way to do this is through gamification!

Let’s look at 5 examples of gamification from Nike Run Club and why they work.

What we’ll cover:

How does Nike leverage gamification on its Nike Run Club app?

Nike Run Club is a health & fitness app that tracks users’ runs with data ranging from exercise duration up to the wear of your trainers. Along the way, they will recommend new articles based on your activity. In 2020, the app saw download growth of over 45%, compared to the average global increase of 10%.

The Nike Run Club app uses gamification to encourage mobile app engagement and retention. Through this app, Nike can collect data about users’ chosen sports, activity levels, and preferred styles. By using that data to personalize the experience, app users spend 3x more than guest customers.

So how do they do it? In a 2020 study, users of Nike Run Club named the reasons behind continued mobile app engagement. They cited:

  • Usefulness – The app clearly communicates its benefits.
  • Ease of use – An intuitive interface and onboarding process are key factors.
  • Playfulness – The user experience is exciting and interesting.
  • Interpersonal influence – The app fulfills the basic need to socialize.

They use a range of gamification features such as milestone unlocks, reward systems, and leaderboards. A study on Nike Run Club states that recognition from family and friends is the main factor affecting engagement.

Gamification is the strategic use of game features and psychology in a non-game context to support business goals. It triggers users to take action towards goals by relying on innate human desires such as our need for achievement or a feeling of empowerment. Examples of gamification for apps often occur in the shape of game-like features such as leveling or reward systems, challenges, and more.

New to gamification? Get up to speed on our ‘What is Gamification?’ page!

So how does this Nike app motivate its users to keep running? Let’s go through 5 gamification examples and break down why they work!

Nike Run Club breakdown – 5 gamification examples

Let’s take a look at 5 examples of gamification used by Nike Run Club and how they maximize mobile app engagement by shaping user motivation.

#1 Build on your community to increase user retention

Nike Run Club fosters a sense of community that fulfills the human need to socialize. This way they encourage users to interact and keep each other motivated. Consequently, research confirms this leads to long-term mobile app engagement.

Nike Run Club’s social elements greatly influence users to continue using the app. Not only do users have a social network and share options, but there are also plenty of opportunities to team up and form an exercise group with their friends. After all, it is the Nike Run Club!

#2 Set timed challenges to trigger user participation

Timed challenges are a great example of gamification when it comes to triggering user participation. Therefore, setting deadlines creates a sense of urgency and urges users to take action before it’s too late.

Studies show that adding a deadline greatly helps in goal pursuit. It’s caused by an innate fear of loss or mission out, known as FOMO. To increase the power of this driver, Nike Run Club even offers prizes to participants, such as a free trip to the Nike HQ.

Challenges Nike Run Club

#3 Celebrate progress to reinforce app engagement

While cash prizes are one way to celebrate user progress, it’s actually cheaper and more effective to use digital confetti. Instant feedback is a powerful driver linked to the need for empowerment, and the effect is greatly increased by Nike’s share buttons.

Nike Run Club users are regularly given the ability to share their progress and achievements. This helps keep them accountable for their goals! They call this a ‘retention hook’. Studies back this up and state that positive reinforcement in mobile apps can trigger action and habit formation.

Examples of gamification Nike Run Club
Reward users’ individual fitness progress with gamification! Book a free session to start now.

#4 Install a sense of competition through leaderboards

Never underestimate the power of competition! A leaderboard is a way of tracking progress and sharing your achievements with others. It’s an example of gamification relying on community, instant feedback, and progress measuring all at once!

Nike Run Club’s leaderboard motivates users to participate in run challenges with their friends and family. A recent study into the app found that the mechanism of competing enables interaction. Accordingly, the closeness of the community motivates the intention to run, ‘increasing confidence and connection’. Community challenges are a built-in positive feedback loop.

Gamification example: leaderboard
Source: Felicia via appsamurai.com

#5 Empower users through personalization

Personalization gives users autonomy and research shows this results in higher mobile app engagement. For example, the app’s coaching plans are tailored to runners’ strengths, and changes with their progress. It always keeps it challenging enough to still be interesting, but not too hard that users lose motivation.

On top, integrations with Spotify and Apple Music let users listen to their own music during training, and you can even set which weather conditions you prefer to exercise in. These features embody those drivers of long-term mobile app engagement: usefulness, ease of use, and overall satisfying experience.

Want to differentiate through gamification? Check out our app gamification platform!

After the five gamification examples we showed you, it is clear why Nike Run Club is the app of choice for runners. The app perfectly balances functionality with fun. Let’s call it FUNctionality!


It’s a fact that 77% of users stop engaging with an app after three months. So how does an app like Nike Run Club, dating to 2012, drive retention by 21% and retain a position as one of the top 10 running apps?

The biggest reasons to quit apps are lack of satisfaction and perceived usefulness. However, these issues can be solved with gamification.

A study found that Nike Run Club’s motivational drivers for app engagement were:

  • Usefulness
  • Ease of use
  • Playfulness
  • Interpersonal influence

To build on those motivations, Nike uses gamification in a variety of ways. Here are 5 gamification examples from their Run Club app:

  1. Build on your community to boost retention
  2. Set timed challenges to trigger user participation
  3. Celebrate progress to reinforce app engagement
  4. Install a sense of competition through leaderboards
  5. Empower users through personalization

Gamification platforms fulfill basic human needs like personal satisfaction, social interaction, and stimulation. It makes an app experience fun and engaging, leading to increased user retention and mobile app engagement. Nike leverages gamification to collect invaluable information on their customers.

Studies show that when well-implemented gamification helps induce positive behavior change. The app’s design is a lesson in how gamification can help your application enable users to achieve their goals while maximizing your business objectives.

How can gamification work for you? Find out in our free gamification session!

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