Nike is the supreme brand in sportswear and apparel and the company has been criticized in the past for a lack of diversity in its executive leadership and decision-making positions, which has led to cultural miscalculations in creating products for the very Black athletes that they attempt to celebrate.
Nike’s intentions with Colin Kaepernick are admiral and profitable as the company had a pulse on the power of the people and capitalized on his explosive popularity as a social activist. However, early in the relationship Nike was scolded by Kap for missing the cultural boat on its Betsy Ross-themed sneakers.
Nike has canceled Monday’s launch of its new limited edition USA-themed Air Max 1 sneaker for the Fourth of July holiday after criticism that it featured the Betsy Ross flag.
Some white nationalists have adopted the historic flag.https://t.co/iuH5n1kDqr
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) July 2, 2019
There was no greater example of Nike’s need to diversify its creative leadership than that. A month later Adrienne R. Lofton was named Nike’s Vice President of North America Brand Marketing.
Nike is finally pursuing brilliant, diverse minds like Lofton to ensure that they live up to the company’s billing as the universal brand that also inspires and highlights the best of urban America.
For further proof as to why game-changers such as Lofton need to be granted opportunities, see the following screenshot. Check out what Nike had to say about AP Female Athlete of The Year Simone Biles’ visit and how Lofton explained the significance of Biles as part of Nike’s team of world beaters.
Lofton gave extraordinary insight about how much Biles meant to her as a Black woman and how the magnificence of Simone’s deeds and the color of her skin have empowered her to influence a generation of young girls.
Lofton is the glue in a situation like that. Nike wants to celebrate Biles’ athletic prowess. Lofton presented a perspective that has nothing to do with winning but rather inspiring hope, resilience in the next generation of girls.
Lofton understands the impact of sports, particularly on a young Black girl. She was a four-year member of the Howard University women’s volleyball team where she helped HU win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) title during the 1994-95 campaign.
In her final two seasons with the Bison, Lofton competed in 57 matches while racking up 1,572 assists, 543 digs, 217 kills, 102 total blocks (29 solo) and 35 service aces. During that same timeframe, HU went 21-6 in league play.
Lofton was featured in footwearnews.com for Black History month and said:
I knew very early on I wanted to work in sports. The dream began when I was a high school athlete in Houston, Texas. I remember seeing a Nike ‘Just Do It’ commercial that featured female athletes who were just as powerful and strong as the male-dominant ads I’d grown up seeing.
At that moment, I felt proud to be a female athlete, and knew I wanted to work in this industry to create stories that would inspire young girls to work hard and follow their authentic paths towards greatness. Back then, I didn’t know my newly found passion was called advertising, I didn’t know how to break into this industry, and I didn’t yet know how hard it would be to earn my seat. But this became my ultimate career goal from the day I stepped onto the campus of Howard University until I got my first shot.
Nike fearlessly ventured into the social impact of its athletes tapping controversial and polarizing former Super Bowl QB Kaepernick as the face of the 30th anniversary of its “Just Do It” campaign in 2018.
Then this year, The Swoosh released several riveting ads, including a spot in support of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.
This summer, Nike revamped its marketing team — infusing new talent and promoting several leaders across ranks.
Before bringing her talent and integrity to Nike, Lofton worked with Dockers and spent nine combined years at Under Armour as Senior Vice President of Global Brand Management, Philanthropy and Marketing Operations, where she served as the brand’s compass with the primary goal of ensuring authenticity and strategic differentiation in all aspects of the business.
So two years after a women’s workers revolt that led to a mass exodus of male employees, Nike is finally getting it. The brand is understanding that to have full integrity and benefit from a platform that promotes diversity, the decision-makers and ultimate power brokers should be diverse as well to create a full flow of ideas.
And avoid cultural gaffes that make the product look inauthentic. Someone like Lofton, who can put a pulse on the subject and really bring the authenticity of the moment alive — from her perspective.
Lofton remains active within the HU community. Currently, she sits on the board of Howard University’s School of Business where she is a proud graduate. Also, she was initiated into Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and is a member of the AdWeek advisory board.
It will be interesting to follow her executive influence on ads, pop culture and urban life and how she helps Nike maintain its run as the ultimate sports and culture brands as Adidas and others look to take a bigger piece of the multi-billion dollar sneaker pie.