Nike CEO to NBA Owners: Our Gear Will Control Your Temperature

Mark Parker

Mark Parker. Photographer: Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

  • Mark Parker laid out vision for world's largest sports brand
  • Nike will begin an eight-year apparel deal with NBA in 2017

Nike Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Parker, giving a speech to National Basketball Association owners, laid out a plan to infuse its athletic gear with more technology, including body monitors and “Back to the Future”-style self-lacing sneakers.

Nike is planning to use sensors and computing power to control body temperature and get the perfect fit, said a person in attendance, who asked not to be identified because it was a private talk.

Parker’s speech, held Thursday night during the league’s Board of Governors meeting in New York, had added significance because Nike will expand its relationship with the NBA in 2017. That’s when it begins an eight-year deal to make the basketball league’s uniforms.

Parker has promoted Nike’s deal with the NBA as a key part of its plans to boost annual sales to $50 billion by 2020, up from $30.6 billion in the most recent fiscal year. One opportunity for Nike and the league is to generate more business from women, who make up half of the NBA’s viewers, he said. Nike is already planning to make more basketball gear for them, including Jordan brand sneakers for the first time.

Innovation Center

The company also plans to rely heavily on innovation to hit that forecast. It recently announced the opening of a “advanced product creation center” to improve the design and manufacturing process of the shoes and apparel it makes.

The CEO said that self-lacing sneakers -- an idea made popular in the 1989 film “Back to the Future Part II” -- will come to market in a major way, according to the person familiar with the talk. This week Nike unveiled a version of the Nike high-tops featured in the movie. A small amount of the shoes will be auctioned off next year to raise money for charity.

Parker, who has served as Nike’s CEO for almost 10 years, declined to comment on the talk.

Nike is far and away the biggest basketball company in the world, generating about $6 billion in annual sales from its brands, including the Jordan line. Before Nike signed the NBA deal earlier this year, after a contract with rival Adidas AG wasn’t renewed, it already had endorsement deals in place with league stars such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant.

While Nike is the market leader in basketball, Under Armour Inc. has made strides in the sport -- helped by an endorsement deal with Stephen Curry, the reigning NBA most valuable player. Meanwhile, Adidas has renewed its focus on hoops, having recently signed all-star James Harden away from Nike.

In his talk Thursday, Parker reaffirmed Nike’s commitment to the game, said Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis.

“The takeaway was his emotional connection and their love of basketball,” he said.

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