Everything Nike does starts with the consumer. That was the loud-and-clear message that Nike Inc. President and CEO Mark Parker delivered last week when discussing the flagship brand’s recent success.
“It’s our obsession with serving the consumer that sharpens our focus and drives our growth,” Parker told analysts on the quarterly earnings conference call. “The expectations of our consumers are evolving rapidly and we’re able to meet and often exceed those expectations because we know the athlete.”
Parker went on to say that by working with athletes at all levels, from everyday to elite, the company has been able to “go deep” into an individual sport to solve a unique athletic need and gain unparalleled knowledge and insight with which it can create innovative new products. He referred to this acquisition of athlete knowledge, as well as the deep dive into consumer insights, as “the category offense.” Nike’s consumers want innovative, well-designed products that perform, whether or not they will actually take advantage of those performance benefits.
Much of Nike’s success in footwear, its biggest business, representing 62 percent of global brand revenues last year, lies in the fact that it leverages its product breakthroughs across multiple sports and categories. Many of the brand’s biggest footwear platforms, such as Lunar and Free, Flyknit, and NIKE Air were initially created to solve a specific athlete need in a specific category. But now they serve as the foundation for the company’s flagship products across multiple categories, reinforced by how well they resonate with both athletes and consumers.
Parker cited the strong consumer response to performance products such as the LunarTempo, a shoe that merges speed with cushioning for a great ride over the longer runs, the newly redesigned Air Max 2015, its most flexible comfortable Air Max to-date, and its Air Zoom Pegasus 31, which gives runners better, firmer cushioning and increased stability .
In basketball, the company has launched a tenth signature shoe from Kobe Bryant. The Kobe X has a low top and pushes the limits of design. Not only is the style getting great consumer reaction, but players around the NBA are reportedly loving its great traction and cushioning.
Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving, one of the most exciting young players in the game today, became the newest signature athlete for NIKE with the launch of the Kyrie 1, offering superior traction with the Hyperfuse construction.
In football, the NIKE Vapor Untouchable Cleat was created to provide the game’s fastest players with power and precision on the field, and the feedback on its look and performance from both NFL and collegiate athletes has been extremely positive.
In men’s training, the NIKE Metcon 1 is a first-of-its-kind high-intensity training shoe that has been incredibly popular in the marketplace, and only the beginning of the company’s push into men’s training.
Running is the company’s heritage, going back to the original waffle trainer, and its largest category, with a loyal consumer following. However, the company is less than satisfied with its progress in its core product line, and is working to fix that with its premium performance products like the Air Max 2015, the LunarTempo and Air Zoom Pegasus 31.
Parker said that the pace of innovation at Nike has never been faster, and its product pipeline never more robust.
“We’re refining our ability to be highly creative and innovative but also really disciplined and operating at a much higher level across the various dimensions of the business.”