SBJ/April 15-21, 2013/Olympics

Nike takes another step onto the ice, nears deal with skater

Nike will use its deal with Gracie Gold to promote its women’s workout apparel.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
Nike is close to signing U.S. figure skater and Olympic hopeful Gracie Gold.

Gold, 17, will be the company’s second figure skater. Nike signed Sochi 2014 hopeful Ashley Wagner, a 21-year-old from Virginia, earlier this year, and it plans to feature both athletes in public relations and marketing efforts aimed at driving the company’s line of women’s workout apparel.

Terms of the agreement weren’t available.

Historically, apparel and footwear brands refrained from signing endorsement deals with figure skaters because the athletes wear costumes in competition rather than branded apparel. But as the women’s apparel category has expanded in recent years and become more competitive with retailers like Gap, and the yoga brand Lululemon appealing to new consumers, traditional sportswear companies have looked to broaden their appeal beyond the sports of running, tennis, soccer and other areas.

Nike, in particular, is pushing into training, which can include everything from Pilates and yoga to running and crossfit. The company saw figure skaters Gold and Wagner as vehicles to connect with women in those areas.

“It goes back to how you speak to the consumer beyond competition,” said KeJuan Wilkins, a Nike spokesman. “How do you connect consumers with athletes when they’re not in season or on television or on competition? That’s what we set out to do with these two athletes. What they do to train — a lot of it will be running and other aspects that many athletes do — but their training regimen extends to yoga, Pilates and other things.”

IMG agent David Baden, who represents Wagner, added, “Nike is not just showing the grace and beautiful side of the sport, but that these are athletes that work out hours and hours not only on the ice but off the ice.”

The U.S. Figure Skating Association, which doesn’t have an official apparel sponsor, helped connect Nike with Wagner and Gold. The company’s only previous involvement in figure skating was endorsing the figure skating pair Rockne Brubaker and Keauna McLaughlin, who failed to qualify for the Vancouver Games.

“To have them use our athletes and feature them in marketing raises the profile of our athletes and that raises the profile of the sport,” said Ramsey Baker, USFSA’s chief marketing officer. “It’s a win for us.”

Gold, who finished sixth at last month’s World Figure Skating Championships, is represented by IMG agent Yuki Saegusa. Nike is her first endorsement deal.

Wagner, a two-time U.S. national champion, has a two-year deal with Pandora.

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