At Nike, the opportunity to innovate is ripest when the challenge is re-imagining how fans and consumers interact with product, strengthening the emotional connection to sport and, of course, solving athlete problems to advance human potential. Here's what Nike did to accomplish that this year.
Breathing New Life Into Retail
If the old model of brand retail was to sit as monolith — always telling, never listening — the future of commerce lies in creating dialogue. For Nike, this means Living Retail, a multi-faceted approach comprised of intersecting brick-and-mortar spaces and digital platforms predicated on fluid conversation and seamless adaptability. The idea is best expressed in Nike’s new flagship program, House of Innovation, which debuted this year in Shanghai and New York. In both instances, all elements of the Living Retail approach are on full display from the Nike App at Retail to the data-informed product assortments of Nike Live.
- House of Innovation: Digitally enabled innovation, design and personalized service at Nike’s two new flagship stores are unlike any other Nike retail experience. A Sneaker Lab on the fourth floor of NYC's House of Innovation 000 showcases the largest concentration of Nike footwear anywhere in the world; the Expert Studio features a paragon of one-on-one service that local Nike Members can book in-store and on the Nike App. Shanghai’s House of Innovation 001 houses a digitally-enabled Center Court where shoppers can enjoy speaker sessions, workshops and digitally-led trialing sessions; and at Nike by You, NikePlus members can have one-on-one sessions with a designer to customize select shoes.
- Nike App at Retail: The interactive app was designed to intuitively bridge the worlds of tech and physical retail, all through the power of your smartphone (and at your nearest Nike store).
- Nike by Melrose: The first Nike Live concept store to open its doors houses a selection of product determined by Nike digital commerce data (things like buying patterns, app usage and engagement) to serve local NikePlus members exactly what they want.
Elevating the Soul of Sport
While Nike began with a simple remit, to make athletes better, it has matured to find a new, parallel truth: Solving discrete athlete problems requires a deft balance of the physical and the emotional. When this is met, new silhouettes are able to serve far beyond their initial intent. A sterling example: The Air Force 1 has transcended Nike’s modern sport design since its arrival in 1982. Essential training apparel and new explorations of digital craft also serve as reminders of how the soul of sport regularly becomes the code of the street.
- Nigeria Football Federation kits: Imbued with the Naija spirit, the kits channel a healthy reserve of exuberance and represent the resoundingly cool culture of pure contemporary Nigeria.
- Earned Edition uniforms: Teams that make the NBA Playoffs will be rewarded with exclusive new uniforms — variations of each team’s Statement or City Edition uniforms — that aim to supply fans with a tangible claim to both their team’s heritage and current success streak.
- The 1 Reimagined: This 10-shoe collection — a result of 14 women spending two weeks in London to “make some cool shit” — gives a female perspective to the Air Force 1 and Air Jordan 1. The collection realizes a number of first-time efforts against the storied icons, ranging from increased stack heights to corset lacing.
- Nike City Ready: With the debut launch from Nike Women's Collections, an all-female design team delivered directional silhouettes that set a new benchmark for athleisure.
- Nike x A-COLD-WALL* Air Force 1: Award-winning London-based designer Samuel Ross pushed the storied Air Force 1 into a future state by employing Nike Flyleather, a super material that deftly balances the natural tactile qualities of leather with an important reduction in the planet’s carbon footprint.
- Nike x MMW: Working with Nike’s latest suite of digital tools (from atlas maps to computation algorithm), Matthew M Williams’ unisex collection combined athlete data and human ingenuity to grant a purpose-led aesthetic to training.
Expanding Breakthrough Platforms
Innovation in cushioning platforms is at the forefront of Nike’s consistent push for athlete advancement. In 2018, this was exhibited by a trio of rapidly scaling breakthrough platforms: Nike React, which is the softest, smoothest and most resilient foam Nike has ever created, provides consistent cushioning stride after stride; Nike ZoomX foam, which delivers 85 percent energy return — the greatest of any Nike foam — allows runners to go fast and far; and Nike Air, which, through expressive new designs, has redefined ride for all-day wear. All are predicated on progress, explicitly in building the broadest portfolio of choice. After all, personal preference is a critical component to performance.
- Nike React Element 87: With wide grooves, the midsole of this new Nike Sportswear silhouette looks like an exaggerated version its performance running counterpart. The looser and wider pattern provides a softer ride for all-day comfort.
- Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo: Inspired by the magic of the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%, this new running shoe houses the same highly responsive ZoomX foam in the midsole and takes on the same aerodynamic shape of the heel. Because there’s no carbon fiber plate, it provides a more comfortable kick runners crave during daily training runs.
- Air Max 270: The first 100-percent lifestyle Air unit, and its eponymous shoe, offers the biggest heel volume displacement for maximum Air cushion comfort.
Refining fit and ease of use is also critical to advancing performance. Continued growth of two technologies, the Nike FastFit tightening system that allows athletes to achieve 360-degree lockdown in a shoe with a single pull of a forefoot strap and the Nike Flyease closure system that connects a hook-and-loop strap to a wraparound zipper to allow a runner to put the shoe on or take it off in one fluid motion, enables athletes to easily dial in on preferred fit for ultimate performance. Both visible technologies are designed for function, but also open the door for striking new aesthetic treatments.
- Air Jordan XXXIII: Jordan’s first laceless basketball shoe progresses the legacy of visible technology in the Jordan line by challenging a different aesthetic norm and proposes a new system for containment on court.
- Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 35 Flyease: It has the same performance elements as the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 35 (a supportive Zoom Air and cushion foam midsole, an out-turned collar from the Achilles for comfort and a beveled heel), but with adaptive fit technology.