The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Belief Is Shown In The Weirdest Of Ways …

One of the great pleasures of my career has been working with NIKE.

What made it even more memorable is that I got to work with them in China … where the challenge and opportunity to develop sport culture was arguably their number one priority.

What it meant was their best people were there and their most senior global management were constantly there so I got to meet them, work with them, present to them and argue with them on a regular basis.

They were good.

As in proper good.

I still remember the first time I met the most senior of senior management and when back to Wieden and said, “Oh, I totally get why they are who they are”.

And I did.

They were incredible.

Sharp. Focused. Ambitious. Progressive and obsessed with culture, sport and creativity.

Then there was the time I met Rosemary.

She had just come to China from the US and I remember being in a meeting where I saw all the global guys go up to her, when normally you saw people go up to them.

I mentioned this to her when we were having a coffee later that week and she eventually admitted the reason they all knew her was because she had been Phil Kinght’s kids babysitter when he was starting the company and she had actually painted the swoosh on the first shoes they produced.


As was her knowledge of the brand.

The nuance, not the headlines.

Underpinning all of these people was a backbone of belief. A pride of who they are matched with a responsibility for where they were going. They were challenging, demanding and questioning … but you always knew it was to get to great rather than to tear you down.

Frankly I’d not seen anything like that, at that level, before – and being old – I had been exposed to some amazing people within organisations.

I will be eternally grateful to Simon and Steve who both invited me in to meetings and discussions I should never have been in … as well as them not killing me when I turned up in my Birkies.

Now it is fair to say, the brand – for all the success it continues to have – has faced some headwinds. Some are shifts in culture, some are shifts in internal culture.

And while there are many opinions and viewpoints flying about, there are many who say the company they are today is not the same company they once were.

Some of that is good, some … well, probably less so.

Too many amazing people have departed.
Too much focus on sales rather than sport.
Too great an emphasis on optimisation rather than progression.

But the great thing about Nike is they always come back.

Sure, some of the things – and people – that allow that to happen are no longer there, but it will be back because this is not the first time they’ve gone through something like this.

Whatever ‘this’ is.

And recently I saw a clue it was starting, bizarrely from someone at McKinsey of all places.


Cool, isn’t it?

But not because of Adam’s interpretation of why it exists, but because it exists.

Someone did this.

Someone chose to do this.

And while there are a whole host of possible reasons why it happened, to me it’s a sign of a brand that still has people in there – beyond the few left I know/work with – who do what they believe is right rather than what their process now dictates they do.

At its best, Nike was always an infectious culture machine.

Making it. Championing it. Enabling it. Fighting for it.

I’ve not seen that as much as I once did.

Maybe, a txt.file is a sign I will.

I hope so.

16 Comments so far
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This is really good Robert. I love the story of Rosemary. But the real test of your achievements is if you managed to get the UK to call the brand Nikeee rather than their preferred Nigh-k?

Comment by George

with cnmpbells upbringing they should be fucking grateful they didnt end up being called nots.

Comment by andy@cynic

Failed then.

But for what it’s worth, every time I hear someone say it like that, not only do I cringe, I feel some sort of compassion kick in as if they’re a bit tragic. Ha.

Comment by Rob

Is the Simon in the post the British guy you always talked about?

Comment by George

mr fucking jammy strikes again.
and still you somehow get free sneakers.
what the fuck campbell? what the fuck.

Comment by andy@cynic

That’s what happens if you’re the sort of cool guy who follows McKinsey’s Senior SEO Editor on Twitter.

Comment by John

Yes. Rob, why were you following him?

Comment by Pete

I was not following him.

It just came up on Linkedin.

I do not follow SEO Editors … especially McKinsey one’s. Ha.

Comment by Rob

Correction – that’s what happens if you’re the sort of cool guy who hangs out on LinkedIn

Comment by John

imagine how that mckinsey nerdy twat feels being quoted by campbell.

Comment by andy@cynic

Rosemary sounds cool.

Comment by Jemma King

She had a brilliant blog too – as she moved to China on her 50th birthday – so I’ll see if that’s still up as it was a great read.

Comment by Rob

Please Robbie.

Comment by Jemma King

I always loved Nike and still loved them when you were probably trying to get them to make a Nike car. ; ) But the brand feels different. They may be making a lot more money but it seems they’re going through the motions of a process. Even WK’s work feels that way. I hope they get out of it and as you said Rob, they’ve been there before. But that was when they had sports people in charge not an ex-Bain/Ebay exec.

Comment by Pete

I know there’s a lot of people who would agree with this. Shareholders probably less so … for now.

Comment by Rob

I really enjoyed this. Thank you Robert.

Comment by Lee Hill

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