Nike : advertising & marketing profile

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Nike is the world's #1 manufacturer and marketer of athletic footwear and apparel. Almost out of the blue, the company established itself during the 1980s and 1990s as one of the world's most familiar brands; as ubiquitous as a Coke bottle or Big Mac. The Nike "swoosh" logo came to symbolize not just sports culture, but street culture, as the appeal of the star players who endorsed the brand was carried onto city streets. The approach of the new century set Nike new problems. Trainers went (briefly) out of fashion, economic slowdown and labour problems hit Asian performance. But the group has bounced back strongly, retaining its iron grip on the global sporting footwear sector and on US sports-related apparel in particular. Sports culture remains an intrinsic part of modern daily life, and Nike has strengthened its hold on the market as a whole through endorsement partnerships with many of the world's most prominent sports men and women as well as a string of memorable and effective marketing campaigns. A key development has been its erosion of arch-rival Adidas's grip on the global soccer market.

Selected Nike advertising


Nike's main agency is Wieden & Kennedy, which works for the company in most global markets. Media is handled mostly by Mindshare. Click here for agency account assignments for Nike from Nike declared what it calls "demand creation expense", comprising advertising, promotion and endorsement payments, of $3.75bn in the year to May 2019. In the US, Kantar (in Advertising Age) reported measured expenditure of $80m for 2016, out of an estimated total of $1.5bn.


Nike's main competitors are Adidas (also owner of Reebok) and Puma. Other include VF Corp, Under Armour, Li Ning, Asics, Fila, K-Swiss and New Balance. See Clothing & Fashion Accessories Sector index for other companies and brands.


Nike Inc
One Bowerman Drive
Beaverton, OR 97005-6453
United States
Tel: 1 503 671 6453

Recent stories from Adbrands Update:

Adbrands Daily Update 28th Jun 2019: Nike posted strong performance for its 4Q and the full year to May, underpinned by solid growth in both the USA and China. There was no impact so far, said the company, from the trade war between those two countries. Another key contributor was direct to consumer sales via the Nike website and app, which rose 35% year-on-year. Full year topline rose 7% to a new high of $39.1bn, including $37.2bn from the Nike brand. Converse was flat at $1.9bn. Sales from China jumped 21% to $6.2bn, but North America remains the company's bedrock, up 7% to $15.9bn. Footwear accounts for around a third of Nike brand revenues, and apparel for most of the rest. Almost all the brand's sport segments reported growth, with soccer the notable exception, down 6% organic. Group net income more than doubled year-on-year, after last year's one-off tax hit, topping $4.0bn.

Adbrands Daily Update 20th Jun 2019: Only three days in, and Nike collected its fourth grand Prix of the 2019 Cannes Lions with a clever Media campaign in Brazil, coordinated by AKQA and Wieden & Kennedy. AKQA got local graffiti artists to spraypaint an exclusive custom-designed pair of Nike Air Max trainers onto their work in different areas of Sao Paulo. Nike then told customers they could order the limited edition shoes via their app, but only from the location of the graffiti. A GPS signal from their smartphones confirmed their positions and opened a special ordering page in the app.

Adbrands Daily Update 19th Jun 2019: Another day, another Grand Prix for W&K and Nike's "Dream Crazy", this time in the first ever Entertainment for Sport category. This time the prize was awarded to the full TV ad, narrated by Colin Kaepernick and featuring a host of other maverick sports men and women. Nike also collected a third Grand Prix in Industry Craft for "Just Do It HQ at the Church", a campaign from McCann's Momentum network which transformed an old church in Chicago into a sports and cultural centre for kids.

Adbrands Daily Update 18th Jun 2019: Wieden & Kennedy's "Dream Crazy" campaign for Nike received the first of what will doubtless be several big awards at the Cannes Lions festival, taking home the Grand Prix in the Outdoor category. That's despite the fact that the main thrust of the campaign began on Twitter and was then amplified by a TV and viral commercial. Yet the core image of Colin Kaepernick, the NFL player shunned by the League after he initiated the practice of not standing for the national anthem to protest against police brutality, was featured on billboards in the US. The Cannes judges were lavish in their praise for the campaign. The poster was a "thunderclap", said one. "It made a statement to the world," said VMLY&R ANZ CCO Paul Nagy. "That one image, they'll be teaching ten years from now, not just in marketing books, but in history books. "In my opinion, it's the greatest Nike ad of all time."

Adbrands Social Media 5th Feb 2019: "Stop At Nothing". An Italian special from Wieden & Kennedy London for Nike: this stylishly shot ad features a selection of rising female sporting stars from La Bella Italia. The most notable perhaps is Paralympic fencer Bebe Vio. She's become quite a star in her chosen sport as well as the wider media, having already appeared in ads for Toyota, Mercedes-Benz and others. As a child she was robbed of both hands and feet by a severe bout of meningitis but has fought back against her disability with extraordinary bravery. Also featured are soccer players Sara Gama and Benedetta Glionna, basketball player Ilaria Panzera, ballerina Valentina Vernia and Paralympic athlete Veronica Plebani.

Adbrands Weekly Update 6th Sep 2018: Ads Of The Week: "Unstoppable Together". Nike Women break free in this joyously chaotic spot from Wieden & Kennedy for the Mexican market. In La La Land, a traffic jam became the platform for a song and dance spectacular; here it offers the springboard for an equally explosive celebration of feminine exuberance, as a trio of Mexican teenagers are joined on their impromptu escape by a succession of local Latina sporting superstars including soccer player Nayeli Rangel, boxer Mariana Juarez, runner Paola Moran, gymnast Alexa Moreno, and basketballer Casandra Ascencio. This, incidentally, is the less controversial by far - but possibly the more entertaining - of two major new Nike spots out this week.

Adbrands Weekly Update 6th Sep 2018: Also this week, Nike stirred up a political row with a Labor Day holiday campaign to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the "Just Do It" slogan. The initial campaign - by Wieden & Kennedy of course - featured still images of several notable American athletes including Serena Williams, LeBron James and Odell Beckham Jr. A two-minute film, 'Dream Crazy', followed yesterday. So far, so uncontroversial. However, also featured prominently in both the print campaign and the commercial is Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL player who opened a Pandora's Box of political controversy in 2016 by refusing to stand for the Star Spangled Banner before games in protest at police brutality against black Americans. His action was gradually adopted by other players, both black and white, many of whom took to one knee rather than stand, sparking a general furore that reached a crescendo when it was seized upon by Donald Trump. As a result, Kaepernick claims to have been pushed out of professional football for trouble-making - a lawsuit against is the NFL is underway - so Nike's decision to support him is certainly a bold one though also a commendable one. The tagline for the Kaepernick print ad runs "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything." In these highly polarised time, many Americans agree, but many more apparently do not. Twitter has been aflame all week with protest tweets from angry self-proclaimed "patriots" who have chosen to ignore the original motivation for Kaepernick's protest and instead call for a boycott of Nike products for "disrespecting" the national anthem. Some posted images of themselves setting alight their Nike sneakers or ripping out the swoosh logo. Social-media monitoring firm Brandwatch says positive mentions of the Nike brand fell to 40%, down from 90% last week. Most sensible marketing commentators applauded Nike for taking a moral stand (as do we). You can't please everyone, so it's arguably better for companies to stand up for what they believe in, even if such free speech offends some of their customers. Coincidentally this week, Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh penned an article for Forbes in support of stricter gun controls. "As business leaders with power in the public and political arenas," he said, "we simply cannot stand by silently when it comes to the issues that threaten the very fabric of the communities where we live and work. While taking a stand can be unpopular with some, doing nothing is no longer an option." This same week, numerous liberal media personalities including Judd Apatow and Jimmy Fallon chose to boycott an upcoming seminar organised by The New Yorker magazine after it announced that it had invited arch-conservative Steve Bannon to be interviewed on-stage. So far, though, none of them has posted a pictures of themselves burning a copy of The New Yorker.

More about Nike from Adbrands Weekly Update

Brands & Activities

Nike remains the clear leader in the global sportswear market, and has if anything strengthened its position in recent years, especially in the global football (soccer) market, where it had traditionally lagged behind rival Adidas. With general approval of the sportswear market in general and Nike in particular at an all-time high there seems little evidence of any likely future downgrade in performance. The only significant clouds on the horizon could be rising costs of manufacturing or raw materials, and any extraordinary surge in performance by merging competitors.

Nike is the world's #1 manufacturer and marketer of athletic footwear and apparel. The group operates a broad collection of separate divisions, and produces footwear and sportswear for just about every conceivable sport within its main range. Combined sales for the Nike brand were $34.5bn in the year to May 2018, up 5%.

The business is now structured as now key segments of running, Nike basketball, Jordan (including basketball), football (soccer), men's training (including American football and baseball), women's training, action sports, general sportswear and golf. It is the clear market leader in running, training and basketball (the latter mostly under the Jordan brand), all of which reflect its powerbase in the US, where it now has around 60% share of the branded athletic footwear market, up from just 36% in 2005. The group reports an annual breakdown by category of wholesale sales (not including its own sales direct to consumer). Out of total wholesale sales for the Nike brand of $30.3bn, running accounted for 17%, training for 10%, the Jordan brand for 9%, football (soccer) for 7%, and Nike basketball for almost 5%. General sportswear is still the brand's biggest category, at 33% of wholesale sales. Men's footwear and apparel accounted for 56% of sales, women's for 23%; most of the rest is categorised as "young athletes".

Traditionally Nike was less all-conquering in less American-focused sports, but has caught up very quickly indeed with its traditional European rival. In soccer, for example, Nike had traditionally held 2nd place to Adidas, but the Air Zoom Total 90 soccer boot launched in 2003 was extremely successful in Europe's main football markets, giving Nike the edge over its rival in soccer footwear for the first time. It continues to hold onto the leading position in football footwear in Europe, although Adidas has the edge in overall apparel and equipment. Soccer alone contributed revenues of around $1.7bn to Nike in fiscal 2010, compared to just $40m in 1994. In 2008, Nike agreed a stunning deal to replace Adidas as official sponsor of the French national team from 2011 to 2018, offering a total fee of around €320m. (The shine came off that deal somewhat because of France's disastrous performance in the 2010 World Cup).

In 2007, Nike attempted unsuccessfully to wrest the contract to sponsor the kit for German national football team from Adidas (it will try again in 2017), and subsequently announced a $291m takeover of UK-based sportswear manufacturer Umbro, best known as the official manufacturer of the England football team's kit. Umbro retained standalone status within the group as an affiliate brand, generating sales of $262m in 2012. However the group put that business up for sale during the year, and a deal was eventually agreed with Iconix Brand Group, who acquired the business for $225m. Nike retains the England football team contract (now until 2030). Football remains one of the brand's key segments, although it was also the only one to record a decline at constant exchange rates between 2014 and 2015, falling by 2% from highs encouraged by the build-up to the 2014 World Cup.

German firm PR Marketing estimated that Nike had an overall 36% share of the total football market in 2012, just behind Adidas at 38%. Globally Nike has around 33% share of the athletic footwear market. In the US it is more like 48%.

In running and training, Nike has strengthened its position with a range of innovative add-ons, most notably, Nike+, a partnership with Apple to integrate its iPod technology with footwear and apparel. As a result, Nike+ running shoes are able to transmit performance data wirelessly to the Nano, including distance run, pace and calories burned. The accompanying apparel has a special pocket to house the iPod. Along similar lines, the group introduced the Nike+ Fuelband in 2012, a digital bracelet that tracks daily activity and calories burned.

Key to the marketing of its main brand is the group's huge portfolio of endorsement agreements with leading sportsmen and women. Combined payments are well in excess of $1bn per year. The most celebrated such arrangements have been the original precedent-setting deal with Michael Jordan in 1985 (then worth a little more than $4m), and a later gamble on golfer Tiger Woods which turned into an ongoing $105m endorsement contract, currently still the reigning record for a solo sportsman. In 2005, Nike dipped deep into its wallet again to sign up teenage golfing phenomenon Michelle Wie to a contract estimated to be worth at least $5m a year. In the US, Nike was able in 2010 to poach the prestigious contract to become official uniform supplier to the NFL from Reebok from 2012.

In soccer, the group has a deal with the Brazilian national football squad worth $695m over 10 years to 2018. It also supplies the French, US and Chinese teams. Other football endorsements in Europe include kit sponsorship deals with Barcelona, Paris St Germain, Internazionale and 24 other top European clubs, though it lost Manchester United to Adidas in 2015, and Juventus from 2016. Tottenham Hotspur joined the portfolio in 2017 (from Under Armour). It lost Manchester City in 2019 to Puma. At the beginning of 2013, the group signed what was then thought to be its richest deal to-date, securing a 10-year partnership with golfer Rory McIlroy for a rumoured $250m. That deal proved something of a disappointment as McIlroy's performance slumped dramatically during the course of the first year, though it has since improved significantly. The group now pays out at least $1bn a year to its various endorsement partners, and even without new deals or renewals, Nike's outstanding financial commitments under existing endorsement contracts at the end of May 2017 totalled $1.3bn for 2018 alone, and total future commitments of $9.85bn.

Nike's vast range of clothing and footwear is manufactured by independent suppliers in more than 450 factories around the world (mostly in Asia), and sold in nearly 160 countries. Most Nike-branded merchandise is designed and developed by Nike, but several lines including swimwear, sports bras and maternity exercise clothing, children's clothing and timepieces are licensed to other manufacturers. There are also several specialist lines including the Jordan Jumpman 23 sportswear brand; Nike All Conditions Gear (ACG), producing footwear and apparel "infused with the flavor and attitude of the outdoor athlete"; and Nike Team Sports, which manufactures custom-designed uniforms for amateur and college sports teams. Nike NSW is a newer line of premium sportswear introduced in 2010.

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Under Armour

New Balance