Nike, Inc. (officially pronounced /ˈnaɪki/, but often pronounced /ˈnaɪk/) is an American multinational corporation that is engaged in the design, development, manufacturing and worldwide marketing and selling of footwear, apparel, equipment, accessories and services.
For decades, the brand has become a household name because of its global advertising and sponsorship strategies. But more recently, as part of the company’s 6.0 campaign, Nike introduced a new line of T-shirts that include phrases such as “Dope”, “Get High” and “Ride Pipe” – sports lingo that is also a double entendre for drug use.
According to Wikipedia, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino expressed his objection to the shirts after seeing them in a window display at the city’s Niketown and asked the store to remove the display. “What we don’t need is a major corporation like Nike, which tries to appeal to the younger generation, out there giving credence to the drug issue,” Menino told The Boston Herald. A company official stated the shirts were meant to pay homage to extreme sports, and that Nike does not condone the illegal use of drugs. Nike was forced to replace the shirt line. This incident shows that Nike’s sponsorship and marketing strategies have not always been successful.
Which advertising strategy has worked more for Nike? Nike pays top athletes in many sports to use their products and promote and advertise their technology and design. This move works tremendously for the brand.
Take for example, some of Nike’s earlier sponsorship strategies: Nike’s first professional athlete endorser was Romanian tennis player Ilie Năstase. The first track endorser was distance runner Steve Prefontaine. Prefontaine was the prized pupil of the company’s co-founder, Bill Bowerman, while he coached at the University of Oregon. Today, the Steve Prefontaine Building is named in his honour at Nike’s corporate headquarters.
Nike manufactures and provides kit uniforms for a wide range of teams around the world. Some of the most important clubs and associations sponsored by the company are:
United States NFL, Greece Olympiacos, Israel Maccabi Tel Aviv, Korea Seoul SK Knights, Spain Barcelona, Russia CSKA Moscow, and many others.
Nike also sponsored soccer players such as Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano Ronaldo, Didier Drogba, Neymar, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Mario Balotelli, Wesley Sneijder, Wayne Rooney, Landon Donovan, among others.
The American sportswear giant overtook Germany’s Adidas as the market leader for the first time in the 2009-10 football season. Nike now supplies shirts for 26 clubs compared with Adidas’s 18, while third-placed Puma supplies just nine.
But Adidas is fighting back, having signed two of Nike’s biggest clients – a whopping £750m 10-year deal with Manchester United this season, and a 140m-euro (£112m) deal with Italian champions Juventus starting from 2015-16.
The most shirts were sold by Premier League teams – about five million. Adidas currently sponsors five top-tier English teams to Nike’s three. But the story is different in the United States.
“In terms of revenue, it is the top 10 European teams which dominate, delivering 65% of total shirt sales in the five key football leagues, most of which comes from clubs in the English Premier League – Adidas’ strongest market,” says Andrew Walsh, football expert at Repucom.
So, it seems that while Nike may be winning in the quantity stakes, Adidas is certainly not bowing out in the running for market superiority, far from it in fact. The brand is now starting to flex its muscles by supplying Europe’s biggest clubs.
What this means for Nike is that the ccorporation must now take another look at its advertising and sponsorship strategies in order to remain at the top as far as sports sponsorship is concerned.