SBD/1/Sports Industrialists

NIKE SPORTS MANAGEMENT: ON THE CUTTING EDGE

     Terdema Ussery, President of Nike Sports Management, has
been with the group since its inception in August 1993.  He came
to Nike from the Continental Basketball Association, where he
served as the first African-American commissioner of any
professional sports league.  Ussery spoke with THE SPORTS
BUSINESS DAILY yesterday on the mission of Nike Sports Management
and its plans for the future.  Excerpts of our conversation
follow in two parts today and tomorrow:
     THE DAILY:  What is Nike Sports Management and what is your
mission?
     USSERY:  It is really the brainchild of our Chairman Phil
Knight, and the objective was to form a management group at Nike
that would be intimately involved in the careers of the athletes
that are endorsers here.  The goal is be involved in every aspect
of their career -- except for the area of team contract
negotiations.
     THE DAILY:  What type of athlete do you look for? Is there a
particular persona that fits the Nike image?
     USSERY: By definition, everybody in professional sports is a
great athlete, so we are obviously looking for a lot more than
that.  We look for athletes who have a passion, a characteristic,
a personality that distinguishes them from the crowd.  We look
for somebody who can really bust through, and we've done a pretty
good job of attracting athletes like that, including Deion
Sanders, Ken Griffey, Bo Jackson, Scottie Pippen and Alonzo
Mourning.
     THE DAILY: What new avenues for sponsorship and endorsements
are you pursuing?
     USSERY:  We are pursing all the traditional avenues of
endorsement revenue.  But, we are also very cognizant of
interactive media and all of the excitement and energy that is
being applied in that area right now -- and this is one place in
which we are looking for non-traditional opportunities.  We just
did a real nice deal with Digital Pictures to produce a state-of-
the-art CD-ROM video game called Slam City with Scottie Pippen.
We are involved with companies that are on the cutting edge of
some of that technology, and are trying to create as many
opportunities as we can for our clients.
     THE DAILY: What trends do you see emerging in player
representation?
     USSERY: There will continue to be some reservation out there
about kind of blindly wrapping a brand around an athlete -- in
light of all that has happened in the past couple of years, in
terms of some athletes getting into trouble.  Brands are looking
for new ways to communicate with their consumers. I still think
that sports is going to be an integral part of that -- but the
traditional formula may have seen its best day.  Part of our
objective is to try and come up with creative concepts and ideas
that we can take to brands that involve sports and involve our
clients, but perhaps without using the traditional formula of a
brand wrapping itself around a single individual athlete.
     THE DAILY: Would Nike Sports Management package a few of its
athletes together?
     USSERY:  Yes, that is an idea.  It obviously minimizes the
risk a little bit if a brand is aligning itself with several
athletes and perhaps speaking more to sports and the passion of a
particular sport -- as opposed to the passion of a particular
athlete.  That is certainly one way of getting the message of
sport across to the consumer, but doing it in a way, again, that
minimizes the risk to the brand.
     THE DAILY: In terms of the current work stoppages, what
challenges are there for sponsors and for agencies that represent
athletes?
     USSERY: Well, it is a tricky time in baseball and hockey. We
don't do that much right now with the NHL, although we hope to be
doing some things in the future with hockey players.  But
certainly in baseball we have Mike Mussina, Ken Griffey, some of
the key guys.  It is not that sponsors are not going to do deals
with people in baseball, it is just that there is no sense of
urgency in getting deals done.  Everyone is in kind of a wait-
and-see mode -- except for Ken Griffey.  To be honest, he is
someone who has kind of transcended the sport of baseball and we
are actively in negotiations with several different companies --
even as we speak -- to do things with Ken once baseball does get
back on track.  But by and large, what we are finding out is that
people have kind of a wait-and-see attitude.  They want to make
sure there is going to be baseball in the spring.
     THE DAILY: Have you noticed greater opportunities for
football and basketball athletes at all in the current
environment?
     USSERY:  Yes and no.  There has been an upswing in interest,
believe it or not, in basketball.  The reason I say "believe it
or not" is you wonder how much more popular that sport will get -
- it just keeps going and the interest keeps growing.  Whether or
not that can be tied directly to a work stoppage in baseball and
hockey I really can't say.  My suspicion would be probably not,
in the sense that the brands that want to do something with a
baseball player, for example, probably made a decision that the
demographics in baseball align nicely with the consumer they are
trying to reach -- and there is not necessarily the same
demographic working in the other major league sports.  I don't
think there is a direct one-on-one correlation between one sport
not playing and an increase in interest by a brand in another
sport, but I think there is a little bit of that.
     TOMORROW:  The international appeal of the NBA, life after
Michael, and what's ahead for Nike Sports Management.
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