Saturday, February 16, 2008

"Back in the day when I was young, I'm not a kid anymore, but some days I sit and wish I was a kid again"

Back in 1988, I was in Grade 7 (or 7th Grade for my American readers), and I was introduced to one of the biggest consumerism phenomenons of my lifetime. Since then my purchasing habits haven't been the same.

Just to be clear, I'm referring to the once modestly sized running shoe company in Beaverton, Oregon - Nike Inc.

To this day I can't tell you exactly why I have become the 'Nike Addict' I am. I know it's a combination of things - the fact that Michael Jordan wore them, and that they were the first sneakers with 'air' you walk on or see, like the Jordan III or the Air Max I. I thought they were the 'coolest' sneakers ever, and still do - haha. Maybe I'm just a sucker for good marketing? Although, I've never been this brand loyal to ANY other product in my life, and when you think about it - that says a lot.

I can tell you who the first kids in my school were to have the Air Revolution, Air Max Light, and the Jordan V, including the other two I mentioned above. It was like being the first kid on your block with Nintendo's NES system - except that you weren't letting anyone else play your kicks! Everyone just oooed and ahhhed, or picked up your pant leg for a closer look.

My ability to collect and wear Retro versions of those same sneakers gives me a chance to be nostalgic and re-live my adolescence in a small way - to finally get those pair of sneakers I wanted but was never able to own when they first came out. When I rock my Jordan IIIs now, I always have people say "Oh man, I used to have those", or, "I loved those back in the day", or "I had them in white". I guess it's a chance to reminisce without even really thinking about it.

Since it wasn't my hard earned money that were buying them (I wasn't lucky enough to have a paper route at that age - 11/12 years old), I was content with a pair of Air Pegasus @ $79.99. Keep in mind this was 1988/89...Nike had me drinking that magic Kool-Aid, and yep, I'm still drinking it. So thanks Mom, you put me in my first pair of Airs (among many others!) - I definitely won't forget it. :)

Socially & Environmentally Conscious:

Nike has come under a lot of fire over the years for their former practices (some self-admitted or proven and some alleged) of paying poor wages and over working employees in developing countries, allegations of underage labour, and using non-environmentally friendly materials to build their products, which endangered the people building the products and the environment itself once the product was worn out and ready to be thrown away.

I'm sure some of you are thinking, how can you support a company who has been associated with such social ills? Well, as with most major corporations there are positive initiatives and programs that they are involved in, but as we know - negative press is what sticks in our minds, even if those issues have since been addressed and improved upon, or eliminated altogether.

One of Nike's oldest initiatives, started in 1994, was P.L.A.Y (Participate in the Lives of America's/All Youth). The Boys & Girls Club I used to play basketball at on Sunday mornings in my hometown of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia was a recipient of charity from that very program around 1998. Nike donated a new basketball court to the Club that was manufactured from recycled rubber from used sneaker soles.

While I was living in Chicago, Illinois, one of the fields we played on in Douglas Park was also donated by Nike, U.S. Soccer Foundation, and FieldTurf in 2004. It cost $500,000 and was built from 75,000 pairs of shoes! The field plays really well, especially in poor weather. We were able to take advantage of starting our rec soccer leagues earlier by playing outside in March & April because of it.

Nike allows people to drop off old and used sneakers of any brand to certain stores and locations through their 'Reuse-a-Shoe' program which they use for creating the very type of courts, fields, and other playing surfaces like they did for the Dartmouth Boys & Girls Club and Douglas Park. The P.L.A.Y. initiative has since been re-named 'Let Me Play'.

I wanted to talk about a Wall Street Journal article that my friend Bryan sent my way yesterday discussing Nike taking their recycling concepts one step further by making an actual sneaker from recycled and environmentally friendly materials, right down to the shoebox. The first shoe in this vain is aptly named Nike 'Trash Talk', which will be worn by the Phoenix Suns' 2 time NBA MVP, and the shoe's spokesperson, Steve Nash. He wore the sneaker for the first time during a game this past Thursday night vs. the Dallas Mavericks (side note: The Suns won the game, and Nash's sneakers and ankles held up just fine - haha).

Even the latest Jordan Brand release, the 23rd signature shoe and rumoured to be the last (take that for what you will...), the XX3, was also created with a 'green state of mind'. Using Nike's 'Considered' Design ethos, it's concept is a shoe that reduces waste, is all hand stitched, and uses no solvent based cements/glues - but still a high end on-court performance functioning shoe.

Both the 'Trash Talk' and the Jordan XX3 in the 'All-Star' colorway editions were launched for sale today, during NBA All-Star weekend.

In the Wall Street Journal article, writer Nicholas Casey even details ways Nike is reducing and recycling the use of electricity and water in various factory and headquarter facilities to further their mission and vision of an increasingly 'enviro-minded' company.

Nike CEO Mark Parker appears to be leading the company towards an environmentally and socially conscious mindset that will not only help them improve their bottom line through reducing and re-using raw materials, but improving their societal image and hopefully positioning themselves as an innovator in environmentally conscious developments, such as their 'Considered' Design concept.

As I have gotten older and buy more and more products, I like to know more and more about the companies I am buying products from, how they run their organization, and what they are doing to improve the world we live in. These days I need to know that my $150-$200 for a pair of 'J's' is going towards something other than JUST a profit margin. Call it suppressing a guilty conscious if you will, but I like the direction 'The Swoosh' is headed. Run Nike Run!


Bryan said...

Sean, I've posted my response to your post on my blog.

Chris said...

here here, sir! well said!

Bloggopotamus said...

Back in the wasn't about brand loyalty for me was more about who was wearin the shoes and if I liked the player wearin them.

In fact, I was out at my parents place a couple of weeks ago and stumbled across an old shoebox in storage that my rents still had packed away amongst other miscellania. In the box were my old Shawn Kemp shoes, The Reebok Kamikaze!!! God they were hideous...but I saw Shawn Kemp do a wicked windmill jam with them I had to get them so i could pretend to do the same. In case you don't remember em...

Bloggopotamus said...

San Fran said...

I came across this guy's blog when writing my my 'Nike' entry:


He was talking about a Nike documentary that his friend, Darren Rovell, did for CNBC. It originally aired after I found this blog, but here is the link to the show info and the upcoming replay times in EST.

Sunday, February 24 10p ET
Friday, February 29 9p | 12a ET

You'll need to copy & paste the links, because this 'Comments' page seems to cut off long URLs if you paste them in...