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ADDvantage magazine
Disrupting the Marketplace: How Nike Continues to Push the Envelope
by DeVonte’ Martin, USPTA Public Relations Coordinator
Listen to the voice of the athlete. When you can understand the product needs and the wants of the athlete, then you will be able to sell the product to the consumer and create demand. This has been one of the philosophies of Nike Inc. from its earliest years. To get a better sense of the current retail marketplace, a team of five Nike employees; Matthew Bond, Melissa Ediger, Liz Fifer, Lisa Gangelhoff and Drew Thurston conducted two focus groups at the USPTA National Headquarters in mid-February.

“We had a couple of objectives. With some of the recent changes that have occurred at Nike, there are a few of us that have new roles. Thus, we wanted to really start to get an understanding of what’s happening in the marketplace,” said Matthew Bond, global marketplace director of Nike Tennis. “The other objective was to talk to consumers who actually wear the product and understand what they like and dislike about the apparel.”

The age group Nike focused on was 15-21 years of age who has an interest in or plays tennis. The feedback they received from participants will help the team to develop apparel lines in the near future. One of the takeaways from their meetings is the way polos will be designed moving forward.

“The polo is super important. It is iconic to the tennis look,” said Lisa Gangelhoff, global merchandising manager. “A big question for us now is how do we take feedback from these young consumers on the overall design and fit and make a polo this demographic likes? Our product has to be relevant to the consumer.”

The Nike team works globally so when they introduce product into the marketplace, they must consider what is fashionable to the consumer in all geographical locations.

“Nike has a global consumer that we’re addressing and our product line needs to meet the needs of regional preferences with respect to such things as fit and style,” said Melissa Ediger, product manager for women’s tennis.

Along with figuring out consumer’s needs, the design team also is finding ways to enhance the Nike product development process. Currently, Nike launches four times a year and is working towards pushing out product faster to the marketplace.

“Here at Nike, we make bold statements,” said Ediger. “We do not follow the trend. We like to set the trend and we can only do that by getting closer to market.”  

One of the bold creations that Nike put forth already this year in tennis was the pink and grey outfits that both their endorsed male and female professionals wore at the 2018 Australian Open. When asked about the feedback from the pink outfits, Bond said it has been positive.

“The pink design was a dramatic and innovative statement and we are always going to do things that are kind of provocative,” Bond said. “I go back to 2012 London Olympics when we came out with the Volt shoe. That color was on every Nike athlete at the Olympics. That color became so iconic, people knew it was Nike. That’s kind of the same thing we did with the Australian Open.”

From the designs to the color schemes Nike places in the marketplace, their overall message is that they want to transcend the sport of tennis and are committed to delivering thrilling product driven through the voice of the athlete and the consumer.

“You see athletes like Rafa, Roger and Serena that transcend the sport of tennis. They also transcend the sport from a Nike brand perspective,” Gangelhoff said. “It’s super important for consumers to understand that tennis is a part of our overall brand.”

Along with our partnership with Fromuth Tennis, the USPTA is looking forward to growing our relationship with Nike, Inc.

“To have an endorsement agreement with the clear market leader in athlete performance apparel and footwear through the best customer service organization in the industry (Fromuth Tennis) speaks volumes about the reputation that the USPTA has in the sport.” USPTA CEO John Embree said. “We look forward to seeing what the future has in store.”