Everyone wins when inclusion is part of the game plan, which is integral to how Nike is redefining what sports participation looks like for kids. From products to representation, the brand takes the lead in meeting children where they are today.
“I think what it looked like in terms of the product was that it was very knockdown so you’ve seen a lot of products like your Air Force One – you can get it for men, women and you can get it in kids,” said Karie Conner, vice president and general manager of the North America kids business at Nike.
“I think the future is just taking that and continuing to build on it,” Conner added. “We’re going to keep bringing the Air Force Ones and all the things that we’ve done in the past – we’re going to keep doing that – and we’re going to keep building on top of that with more kids-first product.”
In fact, Nike conducted more than 10,000 body scans as well as research on its consumers – parents and children – to gauge what kind of product solutions are most needed.
For example, ACG (All Conditions Gear) products were developed for children, breaking down barriers to staying active in cold and wet conditions.
Nike hits a home run with parents with easy-on-and-off kids’ technology.
The Dynamo Go, launched last year, gives kids a hands-free sneaker experience. The silhouette has an entry system where the rear of the shoe compresses while entering the insole and then it rises.
And the Air Max 270, with its easy slip-on construction, is set to release its kids’ model later this year.
Nike also leveraged its get-in and go innovation in FlyEase apparel, which debuted in the spring.
“Not only will you see shoes that are easy to put on, but you’ll see it in clothing as well,” Conner said. “That means a child could literally put on a jacket with one hand, or put on a hoodie with one hand, and allow them to get dressed easily.”
Nike’s body analysis research has also helped inform sizing, producing collections with a diverse range of body types. The results showed that boys and girls have the same body proportions until puberty, so the clothes were redefined globally in one cut.
“You’ll start to see the power of it – and that’s in the next few seasons, where you’ll walk into a Dick’s Sporting Goods and you’ll literally see that section of all the kids,” Conner explained. “Parents have a great shopping experience and can choose exactly what is the right look for their child and not have to think about how you shop for the boys or girls section. It’s just one section, so it’s suitable for all children.
Serving young consumers throughout their physical development is another initiative Nike has taken to make the playing field, in retail and in sports, fairer for girls. At age 14, girls drop out of sport twice as often as boys, according to Nike.
So offering sports bras with improved performance technology and comfort, and advice for adults on how to have conversations about sports bras are among the brand’s strategies to keep girls committed.
Latina and Black girls from underserved communities have the lowest participation in sports, so this year Nike is taking over with the LA84 Foundation’s Play Equity Fund in Los Angeles and Laureus USA in New York) to launch Made to Play Neighborhoods , a three year program that recruits young athletes of color.
Nike is also throwing a curve ball towards how sports are defined – play, movement and activity of all kinds are now considered under this umbrella. “We are seeing the emergence of a more unstructured sport, especially with this new generation.”
On this point, Nike invests in the first positive experiences.
The brand unveiled its partnership with Camp, a family-focused experiential company, at a sports-themed gaming venue in Los Angeles at Westfield Century Mall on Nov. 19. The immersive experience offers kids whimsical interactions with different categories of sports and a focus on competitive play.
Props like floppy fish and life-size plastic bacon strips replace baseball bats, and opportunities to throw a basketball with a height-adjustable hoop and springboard to catapult you to the net.
“These rooms are really kind of a reversal of the sport, and really allow kids to just be silly and have fun and immerse themselves in a childlike way,” Conner said.
Nike plans to expand the concept to other locations. Game on.