Nike Set to Run With Two New Product Lines

In a race to launch two big product lines in the next several months, Nike Inc. will draw heavily on direct marketing initiatives to hawk the brands that aim to further segment the company's consumer base.

With a host of programs including direct to consumer, in-store and grass-roots event marketing, Nike will introduce Engineered for Women Athletes, a line of women's-only products, this fall and the Alpha line come spring. Alpha, a premium product line of apparel and shoes targeting men and women, will be symbolized with a logo made up of five points.

With so many messages and so much to say, direct marketing is increasingly becoming a key part of Nike's marketing strategy to ensure the right message reaches the right consumer.

“It's hard to say how much we're putting into it, but it's more than we have done in the past,” said Jane Flood, Nike's global director of direct marketing. While the company uses postcards and product brochures, electronic programs will represent a big portion of the Alpha line. “The Alpha line will be sports specific, and we will do a launch behind that but we will target electronic heavily. It is an innovative product line, and we want to hit the innovative consumer.”

With help from postcards, brochures and e-mail messages dispersed to its in-house list of more than 6 million Nike users, the sub-brands will further segment its consumers by gender, price point, activity and lifestyle in a category that a decade ago had little segmentation beyond sport or gender. The company will hit 2.4 million names with the Engineered for Women Athletes line.

The company has established numerous relationships with leagues and sports associations nationwide, all of which helps the company accumulate information, said Sandi Bitler, director of women's sports marketing.

“Through our associations with colleges and whenever we do a grass-roots information program, we spread the word,” Bitler said. “One of our other sources is the Internet, where we are looking at a girls-only specific site and accumulating names through that. We can find out who has bought women's basketball products in the past six months and we will be able to target them directly.”

The company issues 80 campaigns each year to drive sell-through at retail. Nike maintains its own database, which is built primarily through its in-box program, Flood said. She estimated that consumers send 180,000 response cards monthly to the Beaverton, OR-based company after purchasing a Nike shoe. The in-box program generates a 25 percent response rate. Nike will drop a mix of pieces simultaneously first to support the retail rollout of Engineered for Women. It also will cross-promote the new lines through direct mailings for store openings.

Engineered for Women will feature 11 products with the fall lineup and an additional 11 products by spring, said spokeswoman Catherine Reith. Among the new products are Air Propensity, a walking shoe, and a slew of basketball shoes to coincide with the current WNBA season. The shoes feature Total Air Nine Lisa Leslie's; Cynthia Cooper's Air Shake 'Em Up, which hits retail next month; and the fourth iteration of Sheryl Swoopes' signature shoe, the Air Swoopes, which will be available in September. The products have undergone extensive development to make anatomically correct shoes with attention to insole and arch shape, cushion and support.

Nike is testing the product lines through Concept Stores, a store-within-a-store strategy in which dedicated displays feature product and signage. It also will tag the logo in television ads and throughout sponsored events, such as WNBA games.

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