The Nike Innovation Summit brought together 300 plus media to the Nike campus in Beaverton, Oregon. Cregg Weinmann and I represented the Running Network at an event that celebrates the athlete and a culture that focuses on the minutae of sport.
Nike Beijing 2008 Innovation Summit
April 7, 2008
Update on University of Oregon, Olympic Trials
The track and field media invited to the Nike Summitt were whisked away to Eugene, Oregon, a ninety minute drive
from Nike’s Beaverton campus. On the bus were were treated to a presentation of the new Nike sportsband product.
By now, most of you know about the Nike plus technology. The ability to not only listen to music, but also to keep track of one’s training and also join a Nike running community at nikeplus.com. In most of the press releases and discussions that we had with Nike pr folks, the number used was 75 percent of runners like music with their running. I did find that suspect.
Allowing for the enthusiasm of good pr folks, I figured that Nike realized that there were more people not running than running and if music would allow some of the great unwashed or unaerobicized to find their pulses running, walking briskly or exercising in some recognizable way, then Nike plus was cool.
When Nike plus started, one of the more popular web sites noted that while Nike plus may be cool, it did not fix shoes that were, well , not good. That has changed over the past 18 months. Nike has, with some blood and toil, focused product,
and developed some very good product ( Vomero, Air Moto, Pegaus, and of course Air Structure Triax) and is distributing it in the specialty channels.
The truth is this….specialty running had become a fly on the backside of the behemoth that is Nike. With three billion of the $6.5 billion in running shoe sales sitting in the hands of Nike, and most of that under $65 per shoe, Nike’s less than $50 million in specialty sales had pushed them down the grass roots running food chain. After much internal arguement, some at Nike decided that it was still important to support its beginnings, its soul, in grass roots running. In 2007, Nike running grew and in 2008, Nike Fiscal year, Running in Specialty was up over 62 percent!
Nike is the major sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Trials, which will be hosted by the City of Eugene, Oregon and the University of Oregon, housed in Eugene. Mike Reilly is the Trials czar and Vinn Lananna, the Track & Field Director and Assistant AD at Oregon is the prime mover.
Mike Reilly lets his actions speak. He spoke for less than two minutes. “We want the Olympic Trials to be the best Olympic trials ever.” He then excused himself, to prepare for the next part of the presentation.
Lananna spoke to the assembled running media, from the balcony of the Track building over the start of the one hundred meters. He had the writers transfixed. ” The fact is, the Olympic Trials are sold out. However, we will be taking over nine city blocks around the track to celebrate the sport. There will be music, wine, beer, high quality food and large screens so that fans who could not get tickets will be able to see the meet! In fact, we will give the medals out in the Festival area after each event so that the athletes feel special and feted.”
Vinn spoke about how the sport needs to be shaken up. He noted the great athletes, and great performances that we have in the United States and how we must professionalize our presentation of the sport but also how the sport is communicated. He promises that we will see some of those changes in Eugene this summer. The Trials will feature a nine day long festival surrounding them, including a Bach Festival, huge screens to view the meet and one of the largest all comers meets ever on the off days.
The facility looks great. The new track was built by Beynon surfacing. Vinn Lananna had praise for John Beynon and his new surface, which Lananna felt was perfect for the new Oregon facility. (The surface was a new product from Bayer Chemical, manufactered by Beynon Sports Surfacing). The shot put pits are moved to the middle of the field. Both horizontal jumps are moved to the finish line side of the track. The crown of the field was removed, with almost three feet of crown being removed to fix the field.
Mike Reilly previewed the new score board, designed by Tinker Hatfield at Nike and donated by Nike. The film promoting the Trials and Eugene is well done, showing the history of the field from Bill Hayward in 1903 to Bill Bowerman in 1948 to Bill Dellinger in 1972 to Vinn Lananna.
The new track looks great, and while the track had a group of 400 meter intermediate hurdlers working out while we were there, the excitement is palbable. In Eugene, a outdoor sign noted, 80 Days to go!
The U.S. Olympic trials will be a celebration of the sport. It is not an event to make money at. The USOC provides too many rules and distractions. The estimated six million dollars that Nike will spend to make this event a real show stopper will have the chance to influence another generation of athletes and sports fans.
It seems to this blogger that the first Olympic Trials in Eugene since 1980 will have something for all fans over the nine days of competition. The 1980 team that did not go to Moscow will be invited to Eugene as well! It shows, in Lananna and Reilly’s planning, that the details are key in making the 2008 Trials something that track and sports fans will not soon forget!
After the presentation on the Trials and a couple of hours highlighting the 2008 product of Nike in footwear and apparel, the running media grabbed dinner, watched Memphis and Kansas in the Final 4, and headed back to our hotels in Portland, Oregon.