Nike CEO John Donahoe says he’s chasing Generation Alpha

Nike’s annual employee survey showed improvement in inclusion from 2020-2021 but Donahoe says the task is far from over. “We have this phrase at Nike, you never get to the finish line — this is a great example of that.”

The driving point of connection within the business is a passion for sport. “Nike is a purpose-based company. And, I think there’s a little bit of self-selection,” Donahoe says. “I would say of Nike’s 75,000 employees, almost every one of them joined because of Nike’s purpose and a deep love for sport and belief that sport can make the world a better place and bring hope and inspiration to a world that needs it.”

The sprawling collegiate campus of Nike’s global headquarters with its 8,000-plus employees is a sports fan’s delight with running tracks, basketball courts, a full-size football (soccer) pitch and around 70 buildings named after sporting greats such as Michael Jordan and Seb Coe . The new one-million-square-foot Serena Williams building, home to Nike’s design teams, features rare memorabilia including William’s winning outfits and post-match notes alongside themed restaurants based on her grand slam victories. There’s a Wimbledon restaurant complete with custom collage British-themed wallpaper, printed with London telephone boxes and double decker buses. The Roland Garros cafe, meanwhile, is entirely themed on Parisian tropes, even down to the bathrooms, styled like stations from the Paris metro.

Nike’s stance on social issues has resonated with younger people, who want brands who align with their values. Nike supported American footballer Colin Kaepernick after he was fired for taking the knee — and the company made a $140 million donation to Black community organizations in response to BLM. “It looks easy in hindsight and maybe it looks easy from a distance, but standing up for social issues is always going to be hard,” Donahoe says. “It’s about having the courage to stand up and have a point of view and then being human to say, we don’t always get it right — I think that’s really important,” he adds. “I talk a lot about the importance of authenticity and vulnerability. That’s partly how we connect with young people today.”

SNKRS and resale

One success story has been Nike’s Snkrs app, launched in 2015 to sell higher ticket, coveted sneakers in the popular drop model, pioneered by streetwear. Nike says that demand on Snkrs surged by up to 400 per cent during the pandemic, with more customers than ever entering a draw to be able to purchase a pair. And interest continues to grow: in Q1 2022, Nike reported demand on the Snkrs app was up 130 per cent.

“Even though it’s been a huge driver of Nike’s success, there’s a lot of room for improvement with the Snkrs app,” says Binetti of Credit Suisse. “On days where Nike has high-profile launches, if you follow on Twitter, Instagram or TikTok, some big sneakerheads are frustrated because they get all the way to the point of payment and then lose their sale — so they still have room to improve .”

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