A Biography of Mark Parker

To describe Mark Parker as extraordinary is an understatement. The CEO and President of Nike has, in his 36-year career, taken the company to heights few organizations have reached before.

The corporate leader’s passion for design that has shaped Nike over many decades. His foresight will take it into the future.

Eclectic as he is, there is trivia about him that may surprise even devoted Nike users.

Early life

Parker lived in the New York city of Poughkeepsie as a child. He graduated with a BA in Political Science from Pennsylvania State University in 1977. His passion for running shoes started to develop when he was a runner on Pennsylvania’s track and cross-country teams. The prolific CEO has brought that fervor to Nike.

Making a difference at Nike

Parker joined Nike in 1979 as a Bootwear designer based in its New Hampshire research facility, where his talent for design quickly drew attention.

He became the Bootwear design division’s Vice-President in 1987, then Nike’s Corporate Vice President in 1989. His rise through company ranks did not stop there. He secured Vice Presidency of Global Footwear in 1998. and served as Co-President of the Nike brand in 2001, with Charlie Denson. 

His flair for design made waves in the company and the shoe industry. He regularly designs his own shoes and affectionately terms them his “delicate creations”. These designs have become such a distinct part of the company that he does not know how many patents he has. One of these patents, Visible Air Technology, which he created as a small project in the 1980s, raised Nike’s flagging business profile during the time. He is also responsible for other brands in Nike’s portfolio, such as Hurley International and Converse.

So eye-catching and wearable were his designs that they became must-haves for sports celebrities like Wimbledon great John McEnroe and NBA giant Kobe Bryant, whom he met in 2003 and clicked with instantly. Collaboration has always been his concern, and he has commissioned artists like Mr Cartoon and Os Gemeos to design sneakers.

Parker has streamlined the company and reorganized it into units where designers work on shoes for particular sports. He wants to highlight the shoe company’s awareness of specific sporting needs.

Other major changes he has introduced include moving the company’s focus to Japan and China. He has also reorganized how regional company headquarters report, removing middle management.

Parker’s road to success at Nike has not always been smooth. He has weathered scandals, including one involving high-profile sports celebrity Tiger Woods. As the Vice-President of Consumer Product Marketing, he helped to sign the embattled Woods to an endorsement deal in 1996. Nike has continued contracting the golfer to endorse its products, with Parker commenting that the company handles difficult scenarios like this individually. Despite these obstacles, Nike’s revenue soared to an astounding $19 billion in 2010.

Parker still participates in design, particularly in the HTM project, alongside creative designers Tinker Hatfield and Hiroshi Fujiwara. As CEO of Nike, his total compensation is over $15 million.

Nike: Parker’s view of the future

A visionary, the CEO has a clear idea of how he want to take the footwear company into the future.

1. Collaborations

With Mark Parker at the helm, Nike will work closely together with other companies. Parker believes that collaboration will unravel opportunities for the company and guarantee its future.

The company counts among its partners fashion labels such as Acronym and Ricardo Tisci, but its focus remains on the athlete. Working with athletes allows Nike to discover what it takes to do well in sports, and with that knowledge, shape its footwear. This is why the company fervently seeks the endorsements of Kobe Bryant and another Wimbledon great, Roger Federer.

With Parker’s guidance, the footwear company has honed the art of collaboration. Few other companies can emulate its ability to execute partnerships, which it has managed with discipline.

2. Nike’s Digital Future

Parker has plans for the company’s digital future as well. The CEO notes the digital and physical world are melding seamlessly. The company is going through a digital revolution and has recently launched the Nike Plus platform with Apple, one that allows fitness enthusiasts to track their training activities. It has broken out of sports fashion and into technology services. Parker wants to add more digital tools to Nike’s arsenal.

The CEO’s focus remains on collaboration, even in the digital realm. Nike has had a strong working relationship with Apple, and is continuing to develop fitness applications with its help.

3. Different Sensory Inputs

Parker is also exploring sensory feedback and how he can use it as a technological tool. What enthralls him is how different sensory inputs enhance performance. He envisions how color can measure physical changes, such as the body’s heart rate. Athletes can use such feedback to improve their performances.

Little known facts about the Nike CEO

Familiar as Parker is to many, there are some details even Nike enthusiasts may not know about him.

He is, for a start, a well-established member of the art community. Those who go to his office will find it filled with collectibles, many of which are priceless. His grandmother introduced him to collecting insects as a child. A picture of Rolling Stone’s guitarist, Keith Richards, sits on his office wall. He has included a rare manual from an Apollo mission and a Jimi Hendrix guitar to his collection of rare items. He often visits art galleries in Portland’s Pearl District.

Succeeding in art and design has not always been his ambition. Before joining Nike, he considered becoming an environmental lawyer or a veterinarian.

He shares a love for running with his wife, Kathy Mills Parker. She is a long-distance runner who once held the world record of 15 minutes and 32 seconds for the 5000 meters.

Trivia aside, Nike will continue to revolutionize footwear. With Mark Parker in the lead role, the company will stay a force to reckon with in the apparel industry.

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Nike and Sustainability

The ability of any brand to remain profitable and constantly meet consumer needs greatly depends on the sustainability of the brand itself. It is more of a question of business strategy and the preparedness of a corporate entity to take on market challenges while continuously innovating and inventing to meet the shifting customer preferences. There are so many brands the world over that fade out along the way yet at one point they controlled a large chunk of their niche market. As time passes, things evolve because of cultural changes that may at times be greatly influenced by technological advancements. This is very evidenced by several brands that were unable to meet or adapt to market changes and lost customers to more up to date and hip brands.

The Nike brand has been around for a while and as other competitors struggle, it has managed to remain profitable and cater to a large customer base. Nike has developed a strategy about sustainability to help it keep up with shifting consumer preferences and environmental challenges. The current crop of customers are so keen on value for money and therefore companies are faced with a much more difficult task of satisfying them. Buoyed by the extensive use of social media, the world has become such a global village and brands get challenged by customers every now and then about low quality products.

Nike considers innovation to be very important in today’s business world. It is not just a matter of improving on the products that they make but being better than the competition. For the brand to be sustainable, they have to constantly innovate and invent, introducing new products into the market to arouse customer interest. Nike strives to develop new sustainable products and even processes by considering sustainability as the opportunity for innovation. The company focuses on the ability to produce products that would stand the test of time.

As the world grapples with so many challenges such as global economic slumps, increased population growth, scarce resources and increased customer demands, Nike champions the need for innovation to help meet these challenges. Innovation has to be looked at together with sustainability in order to maintain a brand that anticipates market challenges and if need be raises to the occasion to meet new demands.

Sustainable innovation is important for Nike because it makes it possible for the company to experience growth in a very competitive market. As resources become scarce, the company has to reevaluate it’s value chain to figure out which areas or processes need to be remodeled in order to make them more sustainable. For a company that deals in physical commodities this is somehow difficult but the company is committed to achieving this vision over time.

To maintain a sustainable brand, Nike values the input of all stakeholders in coming up with product designs. Some of them include athletes who wear Nike products to compete, sports companies, celebrities and the regular consumers. These consumers have expectations from the company and the only way they can be met is by Nike engaging them in different forums such as social media or focus group meetings.

Nike takes into great consideration the environmental impact of it’s processes. The idea of global warming is very much real and it strives to reduce it’s carbon footprints. It seeks to understand how it impacts the environment by carrying out analysis about energy and water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and waste generations. By understanding it’s impacts, opportunities and risks, Nike company seeks to build a more sustainable brand that takes into consideration all the aspects of it’s operating environment.

For any company to have a truly sustainable brand, it must make far reaching and very core adjustments in it’s operations. Nike has sometimes made small changes in their products and process but still does a lot to have a truly sustainable brand by introducing new manufacturing methods, strengthening their core framework so that the need for sustainability is deeply embedded in the company operations and identifying and developing system change initiatives. Focusing on futuristic designs is another way to achieve sustainability and at the same time anticipating future demands or trends.

It is important to note that Nike and sustainability is not just a mere public relations gimmick but a deliberate strategy to achieve a more environmentally conscious and sustainable brand.

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History of Nike

Nike has been in the industry for the last few decades and within the time it has achieved a lot in the sporting world. Today, most individuals highly rely on this company for their sporting needs. It was originally known as Blue Ribbon Sports (RBS) having been started by Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight in the year 1964. Phil Knight played under Bill Bowerman as a Middle distance athlete during his college years. Bill Bowerman always worked hard to enhance his team performance and during his free time, he tried to improve their shoes.

In his career as a track and field coach, Bowerman tried several combinations which were all unsuccessful. But while completing his MBA in Finance from the Stanford University, Phil Knight wrote an assignment which suggested shoes manufacturing in Japan which would assist retailers heighten their competition with the properly established Japanese brands – Puma Sneakers and Adidas even though it was also unsuccessful.

A brief history of Nike

In the 1960s, German’s Puma Sneakers and Adidas dominated the entire global market in all sports and levels. But American Businessperson Phil Knight believed that they could compete with the Germans by introducing cheaper yet higher quality sporting shoes from Japan. However, it was hard to achieve this goal since he had no money.

The native Oregonian – who is the 56th richest person on the globe and 24th in America, with an approximate $16.3 billion net worth according to Forbes – at that time he was a freshly minted MBA from the Stanford University. In college, he was a middle distance runner and he had a dream of combining business and sports to make a living.

Knight managed to land in Japan in 1963 during a world tour where he made an appointment with Onitsuka (Tiger Running Shoes parent company). At the time, Tiger Shoes had an aim of selling sneakers to the American runners and they therefore gave him (Knight) some samples. After getting the samples, he sent them to the man he trusted most and a former coach at University of Oregon: Bill Bowerman. Bowerman was experienced in experimenting matters related to track racing. And any time a manufacturer didn’t pay attention to his advice; he altered the existing models in his garage to make the lightest and the most comfortable running shoes for his athletes.

The Tiger shoes that knight sent him impressed him and he proposed they work together in marketing the shoes in the US market. They finalized a deal on January 25TH 1964 with Onitsuka and created the Blue Ribbon Sports with each contributing $500. The giant known today as Nike began as a dwarf.

By the end of 1970, the business relationship between Onitsuka and Blue Ribbon was collapsing. And knight thought his financial arrangements with the Japanese firm were strangling his possibility of financial expansion and therefore they ended up dissolving the association.

The following year, 1971, Blue Ribbon Sports started their own footwear line. They named the new line “Nike” which is the name of the Greek Victory Goddess called Nikn in the Greek mythology. Nike is described with wings representing “Winged Victory.” But today, they use an iconic logo design made by Carolyn Davidson who was a graphic design student at the Portland State University. The wings of the Goddess of Victory and the fact that Knight liked the Adidas logo and he needed something similar inspired Carolyn. Carolyn earned $35 for the Swoosh design which originally Knight didn’t like.

Nike used the now famous Swoosh for the first time on June 18th 1971. And as a matter of fact, the Swoosh Logo and the “Just Do It” slogan forms part of the world’s most recognizable and greatest trademarks.

In 1972 in the United States Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon the new Nike Footwear line which may continue dominating the sports footwear world for several decades made its debut. Currently, Nike is dominating the world’s sports footwear market and it enjoys over 38% market share. Nike has employed over 40,000 individuals around the world and it generates over $21 billion annually in sales. The company which commenced its business a few years ago with $1000 as the initial investment today it’s worth over $10 billion.

What has kept them in the market?

For the decades Nike has been in Business, it has been launching new editions of the original training shoes. In 2000, they developed Nike Shox which people from all parts of the world appreciated. Moreover, Nike is a strong empire which incorporates different sports such as baseball, tennis, soccer, athletics and cricket.