CLIENT OF THE WEEK: Sports fan finds niche at Nike - Jonathan Nye’s marketing skills are let loose on the brand, Richard Cook says

At first glance, an amiable former British army officer who enjoys nothing better than a spot of shooting seems an unlikely choice to fan Nike’s sponsorship flame.

At first glance, an amiable former British army officer who enjoys

nothing better than a spot of shooting seems an unlikely choice to fan

Nike’s sponsorship flame.



Nike, anointed the most important clothing brand of the century by the

style magazine, the Face, has grown fat on a diet of sports star

endorsements seasoned with a dash of irreverence and a pinch of black

urban street style. Stars like Michael Jordan and Eric Cantona have been

used to change the way we look at plimsolls forever.



But then this is the UK, and even Nike does things a little differently

over here. Jonathan Nye, who takes over as Nike’s head of sports

marketing in the UK next month, has an enviable reputation (Campaign,

last week).



It is a reputation he has carved out in just five years at Bass, the

brewers. He joined the sponsorship team in 1991 after leaving the

Queen’s Regiment, just as negotiations were being finalised for Bass’s

involvement with the Rugby World Cup. It was a time when the company

operated more than 3,000 sponsorships. ’We used to look at sports

marketing in terms of events, what I call the bunting and banners

approach. Hopefully, what I have helped do here, and what I hope to do

at Nike, is to make it a complete communication vehicle for brands,’ he

says.



At Bass, that meant deals like the Carling Premiership in football and

the Stones Super League in Rugby League, both regarded as model examples

of their type. But then Bass operates more than 50 different brands.

Nike is a broader canvas altogether. Just don’t mention the word

sponsorship: ’It’s sports marketing,’ he explains. ’Because it’s all

about fitting it into the overall marketing of your brands.’



Unfortunately, the back injury that caused Nye to leave the forces

restricts his participation in the sports he loves like rugby, but he

still plays golf. And his young son has been enrolled as the

youngest-ever member of the All England Rugby Supporters Club - enlisted

at the princely age of three weeks. At any rate, he should be all right

for trainers.