ANN MILLER: EVP, CHIEF LEGAL OFFICER, NIKE INC.
The World Federation of Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI) and McKinsey & Company have teamed up once again to present our third annual Sporting Goods Industry Report “Sporting Goods 2023 – The need for resilience in a world in disarray.”
Here we present the interview made with Ann Miller, EVP, Chief Legal Officer of Nike Inc.
EVP, Chief Legal Officer, Nike Inc.
Dear Ann, thank you for your time. Looking back at a tumultuous 2022, what trends or events would you highlight as particularly relevant?
“I think we all probably feel that volatility is persistent and change is certain. But more particularly to the sporting goods industry, we are seeing an expanded definition of sport, which is really exciting. We are seeing a trend towards wellness and mental health, and these present great opportunities to engage with consumers on new levels and help people to discover their full potential.”
The role of leading brands like Nike in engaging with consumers has always been vital in this industry, but how do you see this evolving?
“We have seen consumer expectations for brands going through the roof. Consumers expect you to have a commitment to sustainability. Consumers expect you to speak out on specific issues. Consumers expect you to live your values. Consumers expect you to be relevant in their communities and committed to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.
Some might say there are more pressures on brands. I would say there are more opportunities for brands to step up, play a more significant role, and make a difference.”
Are you saying consumers have an expectation that brands deliver more than just great products?
“Yes. Absolutely. At least at Nike, we do not believe consumers are just buying a product. They are buying a value proposition and our mission. When they make a purchase, they are essentially endorsing us as a brand. And we take that very seriously. If we were merely a commodity, you would not give that type of significance to a purchase.
The pandemic has heightened those expectations because we have become much more reliant on digital and social media. So, consumers have many more opportunities to express themselves, and they have a more prominent voice. Consumers’ ability to influence and push brands is stronger than ever.
And we say bring it on! We should be pushed. It should be a two-way street for us all to try to get better. In fact, if you think about Nike’s mission, it is not just to offer consumers good products. Our mission is to innovate and inspire. Consumers get behind that and therefore expect it of us.”
What is the right recipe for engaging with consumers, being meaningful for them, and increasing your brand relevance?
“First, really know yourself. Know your brand. Know when it makes sense to step in and have a voice. But equally, know when you are not the right brand to engage. We come back to our mission and our purpose, and that always guides when, where, and how we engage in a conversation.
The danger is trying to be everything to everyone when you don’t have authenticity, credibility, or a differentiated point of view. Contrast that with really knowing who you are and taking those opportunities when they are aligned with your values, aligned with your mission, aligned with your purpose. That is when you can be credible. That is when you can be authentic. And that is when consumers believe you, trust you, and will go with you on the journey.”
Taking a stand also means opening yourself up to potential criticism, no?
“The larger risk is that you speak out about something where you are not credible or authentic. Your consumers are sophisticated and will call you out. They know if you are saying something that isn’t true to who you are.
I think if you are issuing a press release every time a social issue emerges, your voice is not going to be differentiated. In trying to stand for everything, you stand for nothing. I belive that having discipline and really knowing who you are should guide when you choose to speak out.
If there is no unique proposition and no differentiated impact, then I urge caution. Because I think you dilute your impact, and I think you can harm your brand unintentionally by not really picking and choosing moments where you can really drive impact for consumers and communities and employees.
And the last thing I would say is knowing when not to be quiet. Knowing when you actually have a role to play, and it is unique. If you don’t speak in those moments, it can do just as much harm.
This might seem complex but, in the end, it comes down to being true to yourself, and acting with both confidence and also humility.”
About World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI)
The WFSGI is the world authoritative body for the sports industry officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as the industry representative within the Olympic Family. The WFSGI is an independent association with no objective of economic character for its own gain and formed by sports and sports-inspired leisure brands, manufacturers, suppliers, retailers, national/regional federations, industry and trade associations and all sporting goods industry related businesses. Our purpose is to represent and inspire the industry, to invest in innovation, promote physical activity, support free trade, and do business in an ethical and sustainable way. As part of our mission, we facilitate legally permissible communication and cooperation to enhance competitiveness and innovation. We seek to positively influence the way our products are manufactured, with a focus on people involved in the manufacturing and the environment. Our members are steering the direction of the industry. The future of the sporting goods industry begins with the professional networks that we support.
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