Nike plans to leap onto the Internet next year with a Web site that it hopes will evolve into a digital entertainment network by 2000.
Nike is conducting a review involving up to 10 agencies, including Organic Online and Red Sky Interactive, both San Francisco, which worked on the site Nike created for the 1996 Summer Olympics. Liz Dolan, Nike's VP-marketing, said it's likely multiple agencies will work together on the site, slated for a spring launch.
WEB INSTEAD OF TV
For several years, Nike had been investigating the viability of owning a TV network.
This year, Nike and its agency, Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., formally launched TV programming divisions, and reports circulated last February that a Nike-branded cable channel was imminent. Now, it appears Nike is looking to the Internet as a short-cut to a TV network.
TO EXPERIENCE THE BRAND
"Who needs TV when you have the Internet?" said Ms. Dolan. "We plan to treat our Web site as if it were a TV network. We want to be online with sports entertainment and original programming."
Ms. Dolan said the site will serve to eliminate yet another "filter" that can dilute marketing communications. She said Nike's Web initiative is not unlike its Niketowns or its new event marketing division, which allow consumers to directly experience the Nike brand.
The site could be programmed with long-form versions of Wieden advertising and content that supports emerging Nike businesses, like women's sports and soccer.
And if the Internet truly evolves into a medium that rivals TV, Nike could compete against sports networks for broadcasting rights from sports leagues.
Nike hopes the technology will catch up with its ambitions within five years. Ms. Dolan said that when the site launches next year, it will not look radically different than what's already out there.
"We'll have the usual: info about the company and products," said Ms. Dolan. "But we're far more interested in fun and entertainment than promotion."
But Nike Chairman Phil Knight tempers his company's dreamy plans with pragmatism. He, too, hasn't been overwhelmed with how marketers have used the Web, and hasn't lost much sleep over Reebok International, Fila USA and other competitors beating Nike to the Web.
"The opportunities on the Internet are available to almost everybody, but no one's doing a great job," said Mr. Knight. "In theory, our plans are great. It's another question as to whether we can succeed."
Copyright December 1996, Crain Communications Inc.