Written By: Brooke Baum
In the third meeting of the year, WSBC welcomed Nike veteran, Merritt Richardson. She discussed the success of Nike’s presence during the 2012 London Olympics and her take-aways from this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Merritt attended rival OSU; however, she quickly told us that she has been a long time Duck season ticket holder for football. She has worked at Nike for 24 years and is currently the VP/Global Business Director of Apparel, Footwear and Accessories for Nike Golf. Merritt mentioned that one of her favorite moments with Nike Golf was eating breakfast with Tiger Woods!
In 2010, Merritt became the Nike general manager for the London Olympics. As expected from Nike speakers, she started off by showing a video presentation. It showed the success and triumph of Nike athletes from all over the world at the London Games.
Merritt explained that Nike went into to this experience knowing that they wanted to make an innovative statement on the track. They accomplished this with the Volt track shoes – the Tiffany Blue of Nike. In the men’s 10,000 meter finals, more than half the runners wore the Volt shoes. Merritt described this as their “runway” moment. The image of these incredible athletes choosing the Nike shoe over anyone else was a very clear statement.
Merritt described that their overall campaign during the Games was, “Find your greatness” and “Everything at Nike starts with the athletes.” An athlete does not only portray the Olympians but every person around the world with a body. The goal was to not only design innovative apparel to represent in London but to cater their merchandise stores to the people of London and to those at home watching. At the merchandise stores they had “Nike Plus” enabled products, which allowed for speed and agility competitions. People would walk past the stores and hear everyone yelling and want to be part of that experience.
Her team focused on two key factors: innovation and acceleration. Nike exhumed innovation in London with the volt shoes and turbo speed suit. The suit was common among competitor brands. However, Nike added additional components that no one else was doing; they made the suit light weighted with water free dyeing. Nike also created a high-quality recycled shoe for the Brazilian National soccer team. Although Nike was not an official sponsor of the London Olympics that did not stop them from making bold statements that made them the number one brand.
Nike used this opportunity to transform the market and led with distinction. Merritt emphasized that Nike’s theme is that anyone with a body is an athlete; they serve the lifestyle of the athlete. Before the Olympic Games began they had a goal to create movement in London, to get people active.
Looking forward to the Olympics in Rio, Merritt hopes to land the big innovation ideas early, by coming up with one idea or theme that represents what Nike stands for. She described her overall experience as the most challenging, yet most rewarding thing she has ever done. When times started to get rough throughout the process, she kept reminding herself that she was at the Olympics; what more could you ask for.
One of the last remarks Merritt made to the club was when you experience failure to take a deep breath, “Keep going. Look for the lesson and move forward. At Nike we are constantly building stuff, trying stuff and then see what happens. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t and that’s okay. We learn from it.” Merritt’s passion for sports came out in every word she spoke. She was inspiring and made everyone in the room eager to see what Nike will bring to the table in Rio.
Image used under Creative Commons from Flickr user PAUL FARMER