POWER PLAY: Nike and Wieden & Kennedy have become synonymous with the creme de la creme in advertising creativity, but Nike also relies heavily on sponsorship and other sports-related activities to help keep the swagger in its swoosh. That puts Mr. Helfant, 39, in a key position to contribute to the marketer's success. The whole marketing package factored into Nike boosting its U.S. revenue by 12% to $1.4 billion for the first quarter, ended Aug. 31. Mr. Helfant earlier this year helped broker a coup, the U.S. Olympic Committee's apparel sponsorship for the 2006 and 2008 Games. Adidas previously had the USOC sponsorship.
DOWNSIDE: Pinning your marketing to sports and top athletes brings with it greater potential risks than relying on cowboys or doughy little chefs. A few days after Nike signed Kobe Bryant to a $45 million contract, the Lakers star was arrested for sexual assault. Though the criminal case has been dismissed, Mr. Bryant isn't likely to join the top tier of endorsers anytime soon. Nike, however, has begun discussions with Mr. Bryant's high school to market his prep-school jersey and other apparel. Meanwhile out on the links, Tiger Woods is having (what for him is) a lackluster year.