This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on global corporations.
NIKE, Inc. (Nike), based in Beaverton, Oregon, USA, is a major sportswear manufacturer and the largest shoemaker in the world, selling in over 160 countries. Brands include NIKE, Cole Haan shoes, Nike Bauer Hockey (ice skates, apparel, and equipment), Hurley International (sports apparel for surfing), and Converse (shoes, apparel). Nike is buying UKs Umbro which makes football (soccer in the U.S.) products such as uniforms and shoes. In 2007, Nike sales are US$16.3 billion with profits of nearly US$1.5 billion.  
Kobe Bryant as the Marketing Comeback Kid
"Time heals a lot of marketing wounds," said the director of the University of Southern California's Sports Business Institute. In June 2003, basketball star Kobe Bryant signed a four-year, $45 million endorsement deal with shoe company Nike. Weeks later, Bryant was accused of sexual assault. Now that the criminal case has been dismissed and a related civil lawsuit settled, "Nike and Mr. Bryant are slowly relaunching the star's career as a product endorser." But even while Bryant's legal problems abounded, Nike had "an under-the-radar campaign intended to keep the star's cachet high among shoe collectors and other taste makers." That included limited releases of shoes "customized for Mr. Bryant that landed in upscale sneaker boutiques," raffles of shoes with Bryant's signature, and others with his personal logo, a "dagger-like etching." While "traditional consumer-product companies" are staying away from Bryant, Nike "recently rolled out its first Kobe print campaign." 
"Social Responsibility" as Cheap PR
Labor activist Jeff Ballinger dismisses Nike's corporate social responsibility (CSR) campaigns as cost-effective public relations. He told the Corporate Crime Reporter: "The CSR cost for Nike is about $10 million to $12 million a year, just for the CSR staff and expenses, to go to these sustainability meetings all over the world. ... They have two or three Nike people at every meeting. That’s part of the CSR game. ... I figure 75 cents per pair of shoes to the worker would fix the problem. If Nike instead paid workers 75 cents more per pair of shoes, do you know what that would cost Nike compared to the CSR cost? That would cost them $210 million a year." 
In June 2007, The Oregonian reported that Nike had declared its CSR campaign as no longer just "a risk and reputation management tool," but a core "business objective." Jeff Ballinger was skeptical. "In the 15-year battle over labor conditions for the 800,000 factory employees -- primarily Asian women younger than 24 -- who have helped turn Nike into a $14.9 billion company, Ballinger argues the activists won Round 1 and Nike staged a comeback in Round 2. The company's Code of Conduct was skimpy, its monitoring of factory conditions ineffective, but the attendant PR campaign was brilliant," wrote The Oregonian. Nike "is finally conceding monitoring hasn't worked," but claims "it needs more time." Nike wants until 2011 to eliminate excessive overtime; Ballinger points out that "Indonesian newspapers were writing about [the problem] in 1988." 
Mountaintop removal mining ad
In September 2010, Nike began running an ad with a background of a massive coal strip-mine, or mountaintop removal operation, to display their Pro Combat football uniforms. Nike's campaign was marketed as a "tribute to the hardworking people of the Mountain State, as well as the fallen miners in the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster in April." But instead of featuring underground miners, such as those who died at the Upper Big Branch disaster, Nike's ad featured an open strip mine with a dramatic voice over: "It's just the way things are done in West Virginia." After people objected to the ad as unrelated to the disaster and a glorification of mountaintop removal, NIKE agreed to modify it.
|Key executives and 2007 pay: ||Options
|Mark G. Parker, Chief Executive Officer||$3,400,000||$7,380,000|
|Donald W. Blair, Chief Financial Officer||$1,590,000||$3,990,000|
|Gary M. DeStefano, President of Global Operations||$2,080,000||$5,520,000|
|Charles D. Denson, President of Nike Brand||$3,020,000||$4,080,000|
Selected members of the Board of Directors: 
- Philip H. Knight, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Nike and Co-founder
- John G. Connors, Former Chief Financial Officer of Microsoft Corporation
- Timothy D. Cook, Chief Operating Officer of Apple Computer
- Jill K. Conway, Director of Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc. and Colgate-Palmolive Company
- Alan B. Graf, Jr., Chief Financial Officer of FedEx Corporation
- Douglas G. Houser, Director of the Rand Corporation
- Jeanne P. Jackson, Also a director of McDonald's, Nordstrom and Williams-Sonoma
- Johnathan A. Rodgers, Also a director of Procter & Gamble Company
- Orin C. Smith, Former Chief Executive Officer of Starbucks
1 Bowerman Drive
Beaverton, OR 97005
Related SourceWatch articles
- Oxfam Australia, "NikeWatch website"
- BadCorp.org, "Nike Corporate Violations"
- Matthew Creamer, "Nike talks to PRWeek after Kasky settlement, PR Week, September 12,2003. (Sub req'd).
- Andrew Gordon, "Nike settlement leaves key speech issues unresolved", PR Week, September 22 2003. (Sub req'd).
- Andrew Gordon,"Nike reins in California PR following £1m settlement", PR Week, September 30, 2003.(Sub req'd).
- Andrew Gordon, "PROFILE: Nike comms keeps running smoothly under Manager", PR Week, March 22 2004.(Sub req'd).
- Tom Williams, "Ex-Nike comms chief Iwaniuk joins WS in Madrid", PR Week, June 25 2004. (Sub req'd).
- Andrew Gordon,"Former Gap VP of corporate comms takes post at Nike", PR Week, February 17 2005. (Sub req'd).
- "Nike's reputation in spotlight again", PR Week, April 1, 2005.(Sub req'd).
- Hamilton Nolan, "Nike boosts CSR program by issuing factory report", PR Week, April 22, 2005. (Sub req'd.)
- Stephanie Kang, "Nike Relaunches Kobe Bryant After Two Years of Prep Work", Wall Street Journal, November 11, 2005.
- Interview with Jeff Ballinger: "Ballinger Says CSR Is a Fraud That Undermines Worker Rights," Corporate Crime Reporter, May 24, 2007.
- Steve Duin, "Nike back in responsibility rehab," The Oregonian, June 3, 2007.
- Barbara Rose, "Workers took on Nike and won," Chicago Tribune, August 13, 2007.
- Liberal Conspiracy "Nike is trying to whitewash it's actions with 'Homeless World Cup'"
- Nike Profile, Hoovers, accessed November 2007.
- Company overview, Nike, accessed November 2007.
- Philip H Knight, Forbes, accessed November 2007.
- Jeff Biggers, "NIKE Runs Mountaintop Removal Football Ad, Disrespects Coal Miners" HuffPo, September 1, 2010.
- 2006 PAC Summary Data, Open Secrets, accessed November 2007.
- Nike lobbying expenses, Open Secrets, accessed November 2007.
- Nike Key Executives, Yahoo Finance, accessed November 2007.
- Board of Directors, Nike, accessed November 2007.