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NIKE, PART II: OREGONIAN GOES ON-SIGHT AND TALKS WITH KNIGHT
Published November 10, 1997
In Portland, Jeff Manning, who spent a month in Asia examining Nike and other companies' business practices, debuted part one of his three-part series on Sunday that included a "rare" interview with Nike Chair Phil Knight. Manning wrote that Nike products "more than doubled" over the past three years, "forcing the company and its subcontractors to crank up production. That, in turn, increased the heat on workers and, in some cases, led to outright abuse. The resulting backlash promises to dog Nike well into the 21st century." Manning: "Nike has become an international incident." Knight is "by turns furious and philosophical" abouth the criticism: "For whatever reason, we've been the poster boy on globalization. That's a very emotional topic" (Portland OREGONIAN, 11/9). WORKING HISTORY: Manning traced Nike's working relationships with Asian factories and wrote that by '97, "that network spanned 33 countries on four continents and had presented Nike with a complex set of issues, many cultural differences and occupational health standards." In the interview, Knight said the labor controversy is not hurting business, even with a 20% drop in stock price since January 1. Knight: "I don't attribute that to the fact that we're getting any sort of resistance from our core customer." Nike officials say that critics are "unfairly singling out their company and are distorting" the issue. Knight: "Nike creates a lot of emotion. A lot of that emotion is positive. But there's a flip side to that. ... The people who are turned off by the emotion that we generate really want to believe these things. They basically view us as a rebel that should be taken down." Manning: "As serious as Nike's image problem has become, the company has no plans to change its hugely profitable subcontracting strategy. The cost-cutting expertise of the subcontractors produces profit margins and cash that domestic manufactures find hard to match" (OREGONIAN, 11/9).