It's a new year for the NFL, and this means millions of Americans will be plastered to their TV screens from September to February, and I am no different. Because I have an eye for shoewear, this past Sunday I noticed something a bit different gracing the feet of the players on the gridiron, the all-powerful Nike swoosh.
A new chapter for Nike
For years, Reebook was the shoewear giant that gave arch support to linebackers and quarterbacks, but since its contract was up this year, Nike has wisely swooped in and taken charge of something any shoe company would be thrilled to do: Outfitting the most successful sports franchise in the world. This not only means new sneakers and cleats, but a totally new branding campaign and retail concept.
This could be the biggest launch Nike has done since the Air Jordan campaign, and that is saying something. Nike has always been one of the largest athletic shoe retailers in the biz, so it makes sense that they reeled in a big fish like the NFL. Although it has been known in the sports media that Nike was going to be gracing the feet of offensive and defensive lines from coast to coast, their new retail concept with Foot Locker sent shockwaves to those in the shoe business.
Brand recognition on and off the field
Until recently, Nike shoes could only be purchased in specialty shoe stores like Foot Locker or department chains. But according to the Portland Business Journal, Nike is on the path to owning its own shoe chain that will exclusively sell mall-based, football-related merchandise aptly named Yardline. If this all sounds familiar, you are not far off. Nike launched a similar shoe branding chain called House of Hoops after its success with the Air Jordan line and other performance gear for NBA players.
The success of the NFL has grown exponentially in the past 10 years. Heck, it even has its own network now, so it was just a matter of time before Nike would try to get a piece of the pie. The first store opened in New Jersey, and although Nike was staying mum about the extent of the expansion in a press release, execs and shareholders in Nike and Foot Locker are probably thrilled about this new concept.
When athletic shoes aren't enough for NFL players' foot problems this season, I expect to see many sports splints and orthotics on the field as well. Game on.