A peek inside

Memories of my visits to Nike when I was working with them a few years ago come rushing back. The BBC gets access to Nike’s Portland research lab as they profile 19 year-old Olympic Gold medal gymnast Shawn Johnson, whom Nike is now sponsoring – an area in the campus that has highly restricted access.

When 2+2 does not make 4

ralph lauren-net-a-porter-ad

Apparently this is not as new as I thought, but I feel something doesn’t quite make sense with the strategy behind Ralph Lauren’s polo line in aid of Fashion Targets Breast Cancer, in collaboration with luxury fashion site Net-A-Porter, the sole retailer. They say all net proceeds go to a selection of charities, which is fine. But Net-A-Porter is known for its very premium offering – people go there to buy stuff like Chanel, Marni and Miu Miu that cost hundreds if not thousands of pounds. Will consumers really buy the T-shirt to make a difference? Wouldn’t they be able to donate much more than just the £35 that the T-shirt costs if the cause was what they were attracted to? Because branded it may be, but it’s not exactly something to wear to a posh event. Somehow this seems to me the kind of project MADE for celebrities, like in the ad pictured here, which feature Lily Cole and Lily Donaldson among others. Maybe I’m completely wrong – but I’d like to know exactly how many people have bought the T-shirt.

It isn’t like the Livestrong band, which was sold via Nike for $1 when it was launched in 2004. It matched the brand, it was accessible and for a cause.  Gap’s [red] line is another example. It fits with the regular kind of clothes Gap sells anyway. I don’t have the stats but there was a point when I saw tons of [red] stuff on people on the streets, as well as the Livestrong band. I haven’t yet with this Ralph Lauren T-shirt. I haven’t seen a single person wearing it, to be honest.

Another Nike gem

In the run-up to the U.S Open next week, Nike has come out with a new print ad that compares the achievements of rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in a boxing-match-like scenario. I like the way W+K and Don King have been roped in to create something that celebrates the positive spirit of competition and the city of New York. As this article says, even if neither of them qualify for the final (supremely unlikely scenario, if you ask me), Nike will have enough coverage to justify the ad – not that they need to.

There aren’t many brands that are in the lucky position of actually having the top two players in a sport in the same fold. If they didn’t do something smart, they’d be silly. But only Nike can do it with such class. Go, Nike!

While on the topic, I’m totally loving the new W+K website. It has a timeline that allows you to click on their work through the years, presented in a very Wordle-like way. Grool.

Innovating always – Nike’s Radical Equestrian Boots

One thing that struck me when I was at Nike was the time and energy they spent in innovating and coming up with completely new, yet always utilitarian, products. As a sports company, they try their best to make sure that the interests of the athlete are served at all times. I’ve been going for quite a few interviews of late and one of the questions I’ve been asked is what I think of Nike as a brand now, versus a decade or two ago. Having been both part of Nike and a regular consumer on the outside, I can say that it definitely has stronger market competition now but its foundations have stayed more or less the same. The athlete is still the centre of it all.Take, for example, Nike’s new riding boots for the Olympics, called the Nike Ippeas. From this article in BusinessWeek:

‘The world will get to see the Ippeas on the feet of U.S. rider Amy Tryon, a bronze medal winner at the 2004 Athens Games, as well as on the 14 members of the Chinese equestrian team. Tryon says the snug fit gives her greater control over her horse than any other boot she has worn. “If nobody tries to push the envelope, nothing changes,” she says.”

Push the envelope. Thought for the day.

Nike vs. Adidas

May 2006: Nike joins hands with Apple to launch Nike+, a first-of-its-kind collaboration that uses the iPod to log your miles as you run, motivates you to keep running with your choice of music, and enables you to measure your progress against your friends on the Nike+ site.

Point to Nike.

March 2008: Adidas launches miCoach in collaboration with Samsung, to do pretty much the same thing with one improvement – it measures your heart rate as well.

Right on its heels, Nike and Apple extend the Nike+ capability to the iPhone and iPod Touch, taking the potential for their collaboration even higher: there is some talk that we could soon see wireless workout tracking.

Game, set and match to Nike, for now at least.

In all fairness, I must disclose that I used to work with Nike earlier. But this is a great example of a brand giving its consumers what they want before anyone else does, and the reason why a brand can trump the competition if they know what their priorities are, and if they have the will, innovation and backing to see those priorities through to completion ahead of time.