Power Players 2009

Nike's Mark Parker Is Ad Age's No. 20 Power Player

Iconic Brand Takes Digital Marketing to the Next Level

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THE POWER: Nike is the world's dominant footwear and apparel provider, and perhaps its most-accomplished digital marketer as well. That's a direct reflection on Mr. Parker, who has emphasized marketing, and digital in particular, since replacing Bill Perez as CEO in early 2006. Viral videos are supposed to be a fluke, not a strategy, but Nike routinely kicks off content that draws millions of views. Whether it's the stunning "Next Level" soccer films or the groundbreaking Nike Plus, which integrated social media into the once solitary activity of running, no other marketer so consistently leverages the power of digital media so effectively.

THE NUMBERS: Nike's U.S. ad budget is $790 million, and it has leveraged that spend to a position of almost unfathomable dominance in this market, which has continued throughout a recession that's been tough on pricy shoes. In September, for instance, Nike's three top brands -- Nike, Jordan and Converse -- grew 11%, while major competitors such as Adidas, Reebok and New Balance posted double-digit declines.

THE KEY LIEUTENANTS: Trevor Edwards, VP-global brand and category management, guides brand strategy and all brand-management functions in Nike's six major categories (running, basketball, sportswear, soccer, training and women's training) which account for 75% of company revenue. John Slusher, VP-global sports marketing, handles all of Nike's crucial athlete, team and sports federation relationships.

THE CHALLENGES: For all its ongoing domination in the U.S., Nike isn't immune to the larger economic malaise, which has ravaged the mall retailers that are central to its sales. Continuing to outperform competitors in that environment will require more Nike Plus-like product innovation and, given the company's coolness toward traditional advertising these days, continuing to deliver online content hits at a far-greater rate than competitors -- no easy task.

THE AGENCIES: Nike's primary global agency is Wieden & Kennedy, but it has added a number of smaller shops to its roster in recent years, including 72&Sunny, Olson and Anonimo. Interpublic's R/GA is its key digital partner.

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