50 Years In: Nike’s Game Plan For Winning With Women
May 25, 2022
At 50 years old, Nike is charting a path into the future that starts with its past.
The company is adopting the motto, “We are never done,” to celebrate the occasion and resurrecting Spike Lee’s Mars Blackmon character for a campaign in which Blackmon gets a talking to from a new character, Zimmie, about all of the young athletes changing their respective games, including Nike-sponsored Chloe Kim and Naomi Osaka. “The past was great and all, but the future’s on deck,” Zimmie says in the ad before rattling off the achievements of some of the biggest athletes of the day.
Executives at the retailer’s Los Angeles headquarters last week made it clear that the future for Nike is female. In a women’s event celebrating the next 50 years for the retailer, executives outlined the ways they’re improving product for women and hoping to build a more inclusive company.
As is standard for Nike, data is a big part of the retailer’s plan.
Bridget Munro, women’s research director at Nike, said the retailer’s investment in women’s specific innovation has doubled in the last two to three years, and is “accelerating and outpacing any other investment in innovation.” As part of that effort, the company has scanned “tens of thousands” of consumer’s bodies, which have been added to a virtual database of sorts that Nike uses to test and design products for different women’s bodies.
“These data visualizations are really great because they allow us to build maps or places on the body where she sweats or where she needs to be cool, how she moves and where we might need to place different fabrics and materials,” Munro said. “And if we think about a designer, they’re usually pretty visual and so that sort of information helps us build a data library. And what’s super exciting actually is that our data library now becomes Nike’s own search engine. We can search across the company for information that we know and we all start at the same point.”
Once products are made, the company uses a variety of tools to test their efficacy. A soft tissue robot dubbed “brabot” lets Nike test different sports bra styles and measure for consistency. Nike also invested in a thermal mannequin that actually produces sweat and allows the brand to run tests around breathability or other thermal elements of clothing.