Nike promises aggression in progression of sports innovation

With the best athletes, designers, and data at its disposal, the sneaker giant said it is looking to aggressively pursue opportunities to revolutionise sports innovation.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Nike's VP of digital design transformation, Ken Black, has put his company's competitors on notice, revealing the sneaker giant is aggressively pursuing any environment in which it can innovate.

"We have the best athletes, best designers, best data; we're going to use technology to enable us to move faster," Black explained.

"One of the things I love the most is when you really boil it down to one simple goal, what we want to do is inspire the world with what we create to help athletes do the things they never thought possible."

According to Black, the people behind the iconic white swoosh have always been makers, with craftsman, tinkerers, and innovators enabling Nike from day one to drive what he called modern sport.

Pointing to the company's recent attempt to crack the two-hour marathon finishing time with three professionals wearing the company's products, Black said Nike loves the audacious goals of athletes, and the audacity of the limits of human potential, too.

Tight-lipped on the specifics of what exactly Nike is currently working on, Black told the audience at Dell EMC World in Las Vegas this week that creation and collaboration are high on the company's agenda.

"We have almost 1,000 designers at Nike ... those designers have access to the best athletes on the planet, the best data, performance information, so this leads us to the fundamental questions when it comes to transformation, which is: How do we get the brilliant idea that exists in each designer's head out and in the world to you faster, better, more beautifully, and more seamlessly," he explained.

"For us, one it's about digitalisation; and being a physical products company it's also about the realisation of that end product.

"When you talk about what's going on in the future, for perspective ... the World Cup conference next summer, our products, our innovations, are done and dusted and we are ready for that event."

As a matter of fact, Nike is already working on its solutions for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games, Black said.

"When you ask what it's going to be like in the future, we have designers and innovators who are actually looking five years out at the next World Cup and even seven years out to what's going to happen at the Olympics that is yet to be named," he added.

"Designing into that future means we need tools here today and now to actually enable our designers to realise what that looks like."

Black said Nike's creation process tends to focus on three things: A designer imaging an idea, translating that idea into a visual aid, and then experiencing it via touch.

Using Dell Canvas, Nike's design team and clients can experience the physical product in a digital environment before it even gets to the production stage.

"As we are a physical products company, having that tactile sensation of what it's going to be in the end really is truly critical," Black said. "Being able to co-create with somebody like LeBron [James] as they see an idea taking form and becoming that 3D shape will really change the game."

Nike reaffirmed its intentions in February last year to be the world's leader in sports performance and innovation, appointing the company's first chief digital officer, Adam Sussman, as it looked to accelerate its digital strategy centred on continuing to define what's possible in serving up a complete "athletic experience".

Disclosure: Asha Barbaschow travelled to Dell EMC World as a guest of Dell EMC.

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