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During this period, Nike signed its next superstar spokesperson, Tiger Woods. In 1995, at the age of 20, Woods agreed to a 20-year, $40 million endorsement contract. The golf pro went on to win an incredible number of tournaments and was on pace to outshine golf legend Jack Nicklaus's lifetime record of winning 18 majors, more than validating the blockbuster contract. For the fiscal year ending in May 1997, Nike earned a record $795.8 million on record venues of $9.19 billion. The company’s sales overseas played a big role in the 42 percent increase in revenues from 1996 to 1997. In the states, Nike’s share of the U.S. athletic shoe market neared 50 percent. The company finally had a bit of good publicity in 1999 when it sponsored the U.S. national women’s soccer team that won the world cup. In 1997, sales in Asia increased to $1.24 billion, while European sales jumped ahead by $450 million. By 1999, sales in Asia then dropped to $844.5 million. In early 1999, Nike began selling its shoes and other products directly to consumers through online sales. Teenagers started to turn away from athletic shoes and turned to hiking boots and other casual “brown shoes”, adding on to the company’s troubles. As a result of this, overall sales for 1999 fell to $8.78 billion. Profits began to fall as well, with a net loss of $67.7 million for the fourth quarter of 1998. This was the company’s first reported loss in over 13 years. In December of 1999, cofounder Bowerman passed away, and the company later introduced a line of running shoes in his honor. Throughout the late 1990s, Nike was under protest from church groups, students at universities, and socially conscious investment funds for charges that included abuse of workers, poor working conditions, low wages, and use of child labor. Nike announced in mid 1998 a series of changes that affected its contracting workforce in Asia. Nike, along with McDonald’s Corporation, the Coca-Cola company, and Starbucks, among others, became an object of protest from those who were attacking multinational companies that pushed global brands. Nike’s struggles continued into the early 2000s, but by 2002 the company appeared to have turned over a new leaf. Their turnaround came from concentrating on the mundane aspects of running a business, such as investing in state of the art information systems, logistics, and 10
NIKE, INC.supply-chain management. Chairman Philip Knight’s willingness to have more control of the company also had a hand in the turnover. Nike successfully overhauled its apparel operations, which brought increased sales of its gold equipment after Tiger Woods began using Nike golf balls in 2000. By 2003, they made a bigpush in the soccer shoe market, and Nike gained the top spot among Europeans. Nike also continued to endorse basketball players, scoring a contract with high school basketball pro LeBron James to a $90 million contract in 2003.