Nike Crosses Catalog Finish Line

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Nike races into direct mail for the first time next month when it mails the Nikewomen holiday 2004 catalog.


The sporting equipment giant has had a direct marketing division since introducing the e-commerce segment of its Web site, Nike.com, in 1998. Patrick O'Neill, general manager of Nike Direct, said catalogs provide a chance to boost the year-old Nike Women brand and complement its existing distribution channels, which include four standalone stores, in-store boutiques and e-commerce.


"We feel we have a strong women's product story to tell," he said. "[The catalog] will be a strong business driver for Nike and its partners."


Since Nike Women releases four seasonal apparel collections yearly and is positioned as a leader in performance, innovation and style, a catalog can do a better job of telling the brand's story than a store, O'Neill said.


"Visually, [the catalog] makes that connection stronger than we have in some retail channels," he said. "Our retail partners do an excellent job. This just kind of slams it home."


The 56-page book drops Nov. 8, containing 120 apparel, footwear and equipment items from the Nike Women collection. The selection will be 80 percent apparel, 15 percent footwear and 5 percent equipment. Average price point will be $61, with an average of 2.3 items per selling page.


The catalog will mail to 560,000 names, split evenly between Nike's house file and prospects. Additional copies will be distributed in Nike Women and Niketown stores as well as outbound parcels from Nikewomen.com and Nike.com for a total circulation of 1.1 million.


The target audience is women 18-44 who are slightly affluent, slightly more urban, said Mike Wychocki, executive vice president at Haggin Marketing, Sausalito, CA.


Nike approached Haggin in August 2003 about developing a three-year business plan for a catalog venture that would include three Nike books. Four months into the project, Nike's executives gave the go-ahead for the women's catalog but held off on any others until results were in for the first book.


During the next year, Haggin collaborated with Nike's women's and direct divisions to build the merchandising and fulfillment infrastructure, write scripts for its call centers and develop Nike's first consumer database, which now resides with Experian.


With assistance from design company Character SF, San Francisco, Haggin also helped translate Nike's advertising-driven brand into a direct-selling vehicle.


"Everything else was Catalog 101," Wychocki said. "The hard part was finding the voice and that brand image that works really well with [Nike's] brand look and feel and the direct-selling principal. We agreed that heavy, moody photography doesn't work for selling product."


Wychocki was referring to Nike's current national ad campaign, which features many dark photos. The look of the new catalog is brighter and employs the same shade of blue found in Nikewomen stores. But in keeping with much of Nike's marketing materials, the book is image driven and relatively light on text, he said.


The models in the catalog are women in their early 20s who are exercise instructors or have some other real-life connection to a workout regimen. Many of the oversized photographs catch them while exercising on location.


Much of the photography also will be used in the stores, on the Web and in other marketing materials for Nike Women with the goal of creating an integrated marketing statement for the brand.


The catalog also will support the brand with mentions of the Nikewomen.com site on nearly every page as well as store listings on the order form. There is also an insert plugging nikeid.com, where footwear and other items can be customized.


A repaginated catalog will mail in late November. Tentative plans call for subsequent monthly mailings.


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