Nike Bows SMS-based NYC Scavenger Hunt

Nike is launching a high-octane promotion in Manhattan that uses SMS to facilitate a street level, scavenger hunt-style race with a limited edition shoe as the prize. The contest, and an accompanying Web site, showcase Nike’s new military-inspired urban hiking shoe, the Air Force-X MID.

“Operation 6453” challenges participants to find 16 Nike posters over a four-day period. Top finishers — those who find the most posters the fastest — will win the chance to buy a pre-release edition of the shoe, designed by New York street artist Stash. The individual who scores the most points will receive an unspecified “grand prize.”

Those wishing to enter send a text message to short code #6453 or sign up via the game’s Web site, where they can consult an online map showing the neighborhoods in which targets will appear. When a poster goes up, Nike transmits an SMS message alerting all players to its location. When someone discovers a poster, they text its unique code to short code 6453. A return message is then sent with a score tally; the fastest players earn the most points.

Runner-up hunters will be eligible to buy the upcoming shoe at a pre-launch event. Registration began last week and the four-day game begins May 13.

The “game on the streets” concept is enjoying a mini-boom. April saw the emergence of “Pac Manhattan,” an urban game that makes use of New York’s grid map to simulate the maze-based arcade classic. The game is facilitated by Wi-fi, GPS and cell phone technology.

Verizon Wireless is also using the street-level race concept to promote its products, by sponsoring Urban Challenge. The game engages contestants in a multiple-checkpoint race in a manner similar to Operation 6453. The sponsor provides camera and SMS-enabled phones for the event, and checkpoint clues are sent via text messaging.

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