Nike bosses plan ‘biggest’ Olympics spend as marketing ramps up

By Helen Reid

PARIS (Reuters) – Nike is spending more on this Olympics than any previous Games, top executives said on Friday, as the U.S. sportswear brand embarks on a marketing push it hopes will revive flagging sales and help compete with upstart rivals.

Sportswear makers are looking to reignite demand on the back of Paris 2024, which represents a return to normalcy after Tokyo 2020, delayed to 2021 and held without spectators due to the global pandemic.

Sponsored athletes including U.S. sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson and Kenyan marathoner Eliud Kipchoge modeled Nike’s Olympics kits at a show in Paris on Thursday, where the brand also unveiled 13 futuristic shoe prototypes developed with athletes.

“This Olympics will be our biggest … it will be our largest media spend,” Heidi O’Neill, president of consumer, product and brand at Nike said in an interview. “This will be the most investment and the biggest moment for Nike in years,” she added, without putting a figure on the amount of spending planned.

In Nike’s latest quarter, total marketing expense was $1 billion, up 10% on the same period last year. Asked whether spending will continue to ramp up, O’Neill said marketing was “the number one priority investment” for the company.

Nike in general is focusing on “fewer, bigger” marketing campaigns, she added. The $139 billion company hired a new chief marketing officer at the end of last year as it seeks to bolster its brand in an increasingly competitive sportswear market.

Newer running brands such as On and Hoka are taking market share from Nike, while a trend away from chunky basketball sneakers is benefiting its closest rival Adidas and its low-profile “terrace” shoes.

Nike’s plans contrast with those of Adidas. The German brand has been cutting back on marketing spend and spent 2.5 billion euros ($2.7 billion) on marketing in 2023, down 8.5% from the previous year. Nike’s spend over its latest four quarters was $4.3 billion, an increase of 6%.

Nike’s investment should help stimulate demand despite pressure on consumers globally, executives say.

“Consumers are challenged in just about every market we do business in,” said Craig Williams, Nike’s president of global geographies and marketplace.

Despite that, consumers continue to respond “very positively” to the Olympics as an event, Williams said, adding it is still seen as “the epitome of sport”.

(Reporting by Helen Reid; Editing by Matt Scuffham and David Holmes)