This is a Larry Rant, in text form, on NIKE’s return to actual retail.

Five Suggestions for NIKE as they Return to Running Retailers

NIKE announced to analysts this week that they would ‘elevate’ their relationships with running retailers. We at RunBlogRun find that decision quite satisfying. Still, as a public service, because most folks at NIKE with a history of seeing cycles of love and loathing in Running Retail are gone, fired, or retired, we would humbly like to offer five suggestions:

1. NIKE needs an ambassador for Running Retail. About fifteen years ago, NIKE was about to be kicked out of the Running Event. Retailers were so tired of the lack of interest that NIKE was showing at the running retail culture that they wanted them out of their most important trade event. If it had not been for Freddy Doyle, a long-term NIKE employee (top 20 GBTC marathoner with 2:20 PB) and a guy who could get the devil and Michael the Archangel to have a beer. NIKE needs someone who gets running, understands the NIKE culture, and has the ear of management- that is simple.

2. NIKE needs to create a product unique to Running Retail. Colors, launches, and exclusive products can be purchased by brick-and-mortar stores and ON THEIR WEBSITES. Help make their sites sticky and build content that can ONLY be found on running retail sites. Think out of the box. NIKE needs people in their marketing teams who understand running and know and are not intimidated by running culture.

3. NIKE needs to go old school. Hold on-site media events for running. Acting like Running really matters. Bring in running media, not just content creators who make NIKE happy; they need critical shoe reviewers. Provide them access to the product, listen, and take notes.

4. NIKE must act as if running retail is the ONLY way to truth and enlightenment. NIKE has screwed this pooch several times now. General George Patton noted that he was not good with paying for real estate twice. Why does NIKE do this every 7 years, where they forget that running gave them their start? HOKA, ON, and Brooks do this each and every day. They work very hard to ensure retailers know they need them and will work hard to keep them.

5. NIKE needs to listen to real runners again. That means speaking to coaches, athletes, and retailers who did not use
NIKE. NIKE needs to hear the bad stuff, which will be terrible. Phil Knight is a beautiful example. He hired the late John Slusher, Sr., who so annoyed Knight that he noted, “Hire that S.O.B.” Slusher went on to manage Autzen Stadium and Hayward Field.

NIKE is the most significant player in this market. Each hiccup the Swoosh has caused allows another brand or two to surge. But here is the issue: One former NIKE CEO said, “The first billion is pretty easy to reach. But that next million…” NIKE has given at least ten brands a raison d’etre. Why?

Arrogance. Nike has to stop being arrogant. Remember Steve Prefontaine, the young star athlete the brand holds up as critical to its DNA?

Want to know a story few know about Pre? Okay. After the Munich 1972 Olympic 5,000 meters, where Pre took fourth, he and David Bedford caught up and lived in a liquid medium for many hours. Bedford told me that he quite liked Pre and that Pre was trying to figure out what he had done wrong.

And Pre did. He returned from that nightmare and was focused on winning in Montreal. He turned down $200k to run on the Professional circuit to build to Montreal.

If Pre was alive today, they would go completely ape shit crazy that NIKE has forgotten to reach out to real runners each and every day. NIKE needs to LISTEN once again.

It befuddles me that NIKE still has not learned that running is here to stay and that kissing butt with the fashion gods is a cyclical event. Did not anyone learn anything from adidas and Kanye West? Come on!

And one more thing. Mark Parker, former NIKE CEO, told several media that he once had a dinner with Steve Jobs and was enamored of the man. He asked Jobs how he could make NIKE better. Steve Jobs’ response, “Stop making shitty shoes.”

NIKE has known the answers to this conundrum for years.

Time to remember what running is for NIKE.

There is No Finish Line, NIKE.