For all of his posturing and wealth , it’d appear that a businessman , such as Nike co-founder Phil Knight just doesn’t seem to get it. Here’s a man whose company is one of Tiger Woods’ primary commercial endorsers. Nike pays Woods in excess of $25 million annually, plus his apparel company markets a range of clothing and golf equipment that bears Woods’ name. Over the past decade upon Woods’ entrance on the PGA Tour, theirs is a relationship that seems to have been an amicable and fruitful one , for all of the parties concerned.
Courtesy of Sporting News
By Tripp Mickle , Sports Business Journal
Nike chairman and co-founder Phil Knight has long been regarded as one of the sports industry’s leading innovators, his influence stretching across the entire sports landscape. He was in New York last week being honored as the National Football Foundation’s 2009 Gold Medal recipient, the organization’s highest award. Before the ceremony, Knight, who wore blue jeans, a sport coat and black tennis shoes, spoke to SportsBusiness Journal staff writer Tripp Mickle at the Waldorf-Astoria.
SBJ: How would you characterize the state of athlete endorsements right now?
Knight: It’s a market like other things and the market like other markets has gone down. When the economy comes back up, they’ll go back up.
Knight: You tell me when the economy is going to get better and I’ll tell you right about that same time.
SBJ: You look at someone like Tiger Woods and this episode of infidelity. Does this change the concept of building brands around athletes?
Knight: Not for us. It’s part of the game.
SBJ: Does a company like Nike or another company run a risk in building brands around athletes?
Knight: There’s always a risk. One of the things we always try to do when we have a big endorsement is check out the character and the pattern of the individual. But you’re not going to get it right all the time, and if you’re going to be in the business you have to recognize that.
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Knight, a well respected and an astute businessman, who built his company into a global conglomerate that has revenues in excess of $11 billion a year , annually. Its size and power, dwarfs its nearest competition on the global stage. Albeit , that Nike now tries to portray itself as being socially active and aware. It has come a long way from where its work practices where being viewed and questioned when using child labor to mass produce the Nike product line , in particular the Michael Jordan, sneaker line in the Far East . At the time, they were paying a meager wage, to women and children who were working 12 to 16 hour days, for a mere pittance. For which the product was being sold on the North American consumer market from anywhere between $200- $400 a pair. But that’d be only half of the story concerning the company and its apparent labor malpractice issues.
As Nike has steered a path towards business respectability , the company has taken on a tone of social reform and awareness. But if you were to think that those particular changes would as such make the company appear better to the consumer. You’d be entirely right. But at the same time there still remains that somewhat maniacal fervor on Knight’s path, to conquer its competitors by whatever means possible within the tenets of the law.
Nike and Woods are tied at the hips and their symbiotic relationship will continue while Tiger undergoes whatever is necessary to bring his familial environment back on track. As to the possible ‘commercial hit’ that the company will take from the uproar over Woods’ misplaced sexual shenanigans. No one can really quantify what it will be. But they are bound to lead to a drop-off in sales of any Tiger Woods’ based apparel and product. It just stands to reason. There are some things that the public can be forgiving about but when the alleged offender chooses to hide behind a web of deceit and intrigue . Then the public and media alike , will turn their wrath upon that same individual. Deserving or undeserving as the case maybe. It’s not so much that Woods was placed upon a pedestal but he chose it for himself , the very moment he sought to use that public forum for his philanthropic efforts concerning young children. It’s one thing to preach honesty and the benefits of obtaining an education. But it’s another to then lie to not only to the public but also the closest members of your own family, as to your own shortcomings and misdeeds. Tiger literally has learned nothing than the very fact he felt he was above the fray and invincible. The character flaw is now there for all too see and so too is that now ever enlarged chink in his armor.
Phil Knight views Woods’ misdeeds as nothing more than a slight bump in the road. Wherein , he believes that in some respects it’s much ado about nothing. Well , for Knight as he stands nothing to lose from this all emotionally. It clearly shows however , that he’s an individual who thinks nothing of a client of his , being a philanderer , a liar but above all someone who’s a conduit for the very consumers that his company elicits in buying his products. Either , he’s condoning Woods’ actions or he simply just doesn’t get it all ? I certainly think that on the face of it , Phil Knight isn’t a naive individual. But his statement concerning Tiger Woods makes him (Knight) look like a complete ass ! It may well start to hit home once the consumers start to buy less of his client’s product and forsake those products and go elsewhere for their needs.
Common sense , intelligence and clarity pertaining to one being held accountable for one’s actions just doesn’t seem to sit at all well with either Tiger Woods or Phil Knight. And in the case of Phil Knight , it just appears to be that he wanted to make that idiotic sound byte without at all thinking about the ramifications of Woods’ actions.