Monday, March 1, 2010

The Nike Experience

This is a guest post from Kelley sophomore honors student Savinay Pillay.

In the basketball world, it is safe to say that if LeBron James can recognize your face, you are doing something right. As the director of Nike’s Elite Youth Program, Mike Hackman has the opportunity to work with NBA stars, including James, and develops initiatives geared toward discovering Nike’s next big star.

On Tuesday, February 9, 2010, students in professors Darryl Neher and Jeanette Heidewald’s honors business communication classes were presented with a unique opportunity to interact with Mr. Hackman through a live Nike case presentation. The case experience examined a real-world problem that Nike faces in trying to determine the most effective means of targeting young, elite players who one day may sport the Nike brand for their college or professional teams.

The basketball recruiting landscape has continued to reinvent itself with the surge in popularity of social networking, technology, and digital media. Nike has come to an impasse on effective ways to target the next-generation athlete through these technological media, representing a significant problem for the company, as Nike places a high degree of importance on connecting with athletes at a young age. Developing relationships with high-profile athletes takes time and targeting these athletes early can help ease this process.

Each student team was required to draft an executive summary of its proposal and present the idea to a panel of judges consisting of Professor Neher or Professor Heidewald and upperclassmen. Through the case competition students were exposed to the thought processes needed to develop effective solutions in case competitions and learned how to draft concise summaries of complex ideas. Upon completion of the case, students had the opportunity to meet Mr. Hackman who debriefed the case, explaining the reasoning often implemented by Nike in addressing business questions. 

One of the most valuable lessons Mr. Hackman imparted was the thinking that all solutions must have a need. Often Nike executives hear ideas with great potential to impact the company positively; however, if there is no true need for the strategy, it will ultimately fail. My classmates and I found Mr. Hackman’s presentation to be extremely informative, as all of us learned techniques that can be implemented in future business environments.

As a student of the Kelley School of Business, there are quite a few opportunities to interact with industry leaders, but having the chance to learn from a representative of one of the world’s largest and most successful companies was undoubtedly a valuable experience. Not only did students develop an understanding of the thought process necessary to solve business problems, but we were also able to develop communication skills that will prove valuable in our future careers. It is one thing to read about Nike in class and the Wall Street Journal, but to gain experience with a Nike executive was an incredible opportunity that I am so very grateful to have experienced.

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