Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home

Due to traveling to Portland and more so to a lack of organization on my part, I was unable to get any training today. I’m not too concerned as I have the opportunity to let my massage take hold and my leg has one more day to be good so I can have four productive days with good footing.

Today’s theme is inspired by Steve Winwood and Blind Faith. I think this suits the situation that Nike dealt with over the last two years in addressing its shortcomings with its core running products. Somehow the Swoosh got high on its global domination success and couldn’t find its soul – the serious runner.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post I’m meeting along with five other running shops and people with Nike responsible for getting the Swoosh on track with our running specialty businesses. Two years ago Nike was going nowhere fast while the rest of the running market was going full speed. Its not that Nike wasn’t a successful business, it just wasn’t successful with specialty running shops. It was sad to see as Nike was created with our customers in mind. In the beginning Phil Knight and others were selling Nikes out of the back of vans at track meets.

When Nike became a global brand selling golf balls and yoga mats it lost sight of the specific needs of its original customers – runners that take their running and shoes serious. Even while it was selling millions of Shox shoes at the big box sporting goods Nike was deluded in thinking they were servicing real runners. On a trip to the Nike Campus two years ago I had one of our customer service reps refer to the Shox as “evil” because Nike was trumpeting Shox sales success, while the CSR knew that real runners hated how that shoe felt and performed.

Fortunately, the message was heard as Nike saw its specialty market decline while other smaller brands grew and grew. I had other competing brand account reps remark that they couldn’t understand why Nike didn’t “get it”. They also knew that if Nike set its mind to it they had the resources to be relevant again. Nike dedicated individuals to resurrect the Bowerman line as a specialty running line that had a mission of fit and consistency.

As someone who grew up with Nike as my first running shoes in high school (Waffle Trainer and LDV) and college (Daybreak and Tailwind) I was glad to see the change. Some of us wanted Nike to be relevant again because it was such an important company in advancing the sport 30 years ago. It wasn’t so much nostalgia as the sport and industry needs strong companies helping to promote the sport. Snappy ads are great but if the product sucks, who cares. Fortunately, the product is once again very good. Now the Swoosh needs to prove it can stay focused on keeping its heritage running customer.

For now the Swoosh is back or at least at Skinny Raven. I think it’s great for everyone, even those who don’t wear Nikes. Nike has the ability that other brands don’t have because of its size to promote the sport in a bigger way and bring more attention and runners to the sport. Being at the Olympic Trials this summer in Eugene was one example of how Nike’s presence elevated the event to a level that all benefitted from. It was an amazing week of competition that had an electric feel everywhere you were in Eugene. I can’t wait for the 2012 trials that will be in Eugene again. You should make plans to go too.

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