Would you run 100m for every ‘Like’ you got on Facebook? 

That is exactly what Joseph Tame, a British digital media producer living in Tokyo, is doing this July. In conjunction with Nike, as part of their Run Like Me campaign, Tame will run a hundred metres per ‘Like’. Ten thumbs up, one kilometre of running around Tokyo. A Thousand ‘Likes’? Five thousand? Well, you do the maths, but he might need to think about getting some more new trainers…

Why is he doing this? Well, he tells viewers of a YouTube video accompanying the campaign, which launched on Friday, “Because I like the internet, and I like running.” And that is no lie – check out Tame’s Art of Running website, where he logs the ‘Artistic Runs’ – which take meticulous planning – he does with a GPS tracker app in his iPhone, the course of which makes ‘art’ on the streets. He even travelled to Ishinomaki, in Miyagi, running around the town spelling out its name on the streets as part of a volunteering trip to Tohoku.

Joseph Tame

Joseph and I spoke on the phone about the project; we wanted to find out a little more.

What does he expect? “Well, who knows? There are no benchmarks, it’s very experimental. You know, Nike is a global sports brand and they have entered a partnership with a local ‘character’, so to speak.” In the short-term, though, Tame told me that he was, “realistically,” hoping for at least 500 (at the time of writing, a few hours after speaking to him, there are 540, and counting…)

“We had long discussions about how we would cope with an avalanche of likes,” Joseph says; it looks like some of the plans they made may have to be put into action!

It will be a month long project, not just one run, so at least he has chance to spread out the work and save those knees from a complete pounding. He will be doing “several runs a week,” several more than many of those punishing him with their mouse clicks.

But is it a punishment? Perhaps not, he seems to love it. And the ‘Artistic Run’ concept seems integral to that enjoyment. “The key is, it’s interactive. As the campaign continues, I will be making video responses and taking more suggestions for shapes (to run).” This isn’t your average jog around the park – running should be enjoyable, seems to be the message.

Some runs are more challenging than others, it seems: Joseph is currently planning a “Map Japan” run – in the shape of, you guessed it, Japan – after a suggestion from a viewer of docomo’s mobile TV service, Nottv, on which they saw him.

Most of these runs are in Tokyo but he is open to suggestions, however tricky they may be to plan… “I was doing so much preparation for the next 50km artistic run, that I needed to buy a new Thunderbolt display for my Mac (well, that was my excuse, anyway!)”

This is one campaign that didn’t need to use an actor or invent a character – Joseph says that even his wife, upon seeing the video, said, “That is so Joseph!”

Perhaps she is used to his schemes; if you think you have seen Joseph before, you might be right; he gets quite a lot of attention, especially when he is “in costume.” Joseph tells me that it’s almost got to the stage when he’s surprised when people don’t recognise him.

His media-friendly exploits in the Tokyo Marathon – live streaming his efforts with iPhone cameras strapped to his head – have a lot to do with that, but even when people don’t recognise him, Joseph says it appeals to people. “It’s because it’s so ridiculous! It instantly brings down walls. Salarymen will smile, and even the old women, when they ask ‘what is it?’ will, when I explain, nod and say ‘naruhodo‘ (I see…)”

“In a way it was my idea,” Joseph tells me, “last year I made a presentation to a creative agency working with Nike and we spoke about the potential for a tie-up. I want to make running more interactive, more social.” Eventually, the creatives contacted Joseph, suggesting there might be a good opportunity to work together, and here we are. He seems delighted to ‘work’ in running, I can hear his passion when he says he wants to move the sport to “more than just one foot in front of the other.”

Of course, though, essentially, this is about selling trainers. “Yes. And there are lots of branding rules but I see this idea as really ‘on the coalface’.” This would be exciting for anyone watching or involved in new media.

This hasn’t been done before, and it isn’t clear how it will turn out, and the commercial aspect doesn’t bother Tame as much as it would working with another company. Having spoken to others in the past who have approached him, he rejected the chance. Tame says, “I felt they expected me to completely sell my ‘brand’ to them. To promote something that doesn’t resonate with me.”

Whether or not this is a project, campaign, that will truly go viral and take over Joseph’s life remains to be seen. It seems to have all the hallmarks of something that will take off and, well, here we are writing about it. I doubt we will be the last.

‘How far can the internet make him run?’, asks the Facebook page. You can find the total so far, and like the page to add your 100m to his total, here. Have a look at the YouTube video below.

by Matthew Holmes