Nike Direct to Consumer Leadership Training

When you innovate on the outside you also have to innovate on the inside.

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Nike: Global Innovator & Retailer

Nike, the world’s largest athletic equipment company, is known for their innovative products, athletes, and ground breaking advertising campaigns. What is not widely known is that Nike is also a multi-billion dollar direct-to-consumer retailer which operates thousands of locations and employs 50,000+ retail employees (with over 20+ languages) across the globe.

Nike’s Direct to Consumer (DTC) leaders were seeing gaps in their reach to deliver engaging internal communications to their retail associates. Important content from operations, human resources, and product teams were not effective, proving not to engage or drive activation of the targeted audiences. Retail employees did not understand some of their core job functions. Key information about customer engagement, promotion opportunities, and HR benefits were being compromised. And because not all internal communications were culturally translated into local languages, half of all retail employees could not even consume what was being delivered. When these gaps were multiplied across the global fleet of stores, the urgency to solving these problems became DTC’s core priority.

Our Assignment to Help DTC Better Connect with athletes (in-store associates)

To help Nike’s DTC business better connect with athletes (in-store associates) by first empowering the DTC’s HR teams to better understand the behaviors and habits of employee audiences followed by the delivery of information and instruction in ways that more meaningfully serve athletes and coaches in the stores.

Internal Communications Insights

We collaborated tightly with Nike DTC executives to isolate the gaps in internal communication that were holding back the effectiveness of retail employee communications. Three key insights were uncovered:

  1. With over twenty languages spoken in stores and through internal communications, immediate cultural translation was required. Traditionally, tools and internal communications were developed with an ‘American English’ first mindset, yet 51% of retail employees didn’t speak English. Many times translation wasn’t implemented, which meant that half of their store employees weren’t effectively engaged.
  2. While there were hundreds of desk-based HR managers and directors across the globe who were empowered to produce employee communications for their region or country, most of them had never worked in a retail environment. This meant they had no firsthand knowledge of the day-to-day challenges and realities athletes and coaches face. Because training in-field was not practical, our challenge was to bring the retail education and environment to HR managers and directors.
  3. There was no alignment between global stakeholders around the value between employee engagement and business performance. Nike always has aggressive growth and performance goals, but often move so fast that they aren’t always supported by and through employee communications.

A Global Approach & Strategy for HR and Internal Communication Leaders

Our assignment focused around the education and engagement of global DTC HR and Internal Communication leaders so they could better serve the retail employee population across the globe. To do this, these leaders had to understand DTC’s business and communication objectives, the behaviors and habits of retail managers (Coaches) and associates (Athletes), and feel empowered to deliver tools and communications designed to engage retail associates anywhere around the world.

Instead of delivering a more prescribed corporate policy of do’s and don’ts to HR for communicating with Coaches and Athletes in the field, we developed a strategy that put HR “in their shoes.” The Think Retail First campaign used storytelling and compelling content to highlight the day-to-day in-store challenges that Coaches and Athletes face, so that HR could empathize and understand that best way to meet in-store “where they’re at.”

The Think Retail First Campaign Story redefined the internal communication approach for engaging with retail employees

The Think Retail First campaign featured a condensed education of the Nike DTC business, and established the scale and importance for HR to ensure internal communication objectives were mapped to the core DTC business objectives. Some key points:

  • Delivering educational content through learning experiences provided a measurable increase in the business acumen of DTC HR employees
  • DTC retail employees made up over 60% of the Nike Employee population
  • DTC is a key growth initiative within the company for both profit and brand engagement  

This story was told through engaging infographics leveraging company business priorities and industry data delivered in highly creative and visual methodologies. To empower and align the HR Directors and Managers, Vignette developed a simplified message strategy that redefined the internal communication approach for engaging with retail employees.

The Think Retail First message strategy composition was:

  • Understand. Our Associates’ greatest value is when they are face to face with our customers. Streamline touchpoints to maximize this time and profitability for the Company.
  • Know. DTC makes up 60% of Nike employees, across 39 countries, and 20+ languages. When we serve the retail Associate, we serve the entire company.
  • Evolve. Consider our Associates in everything we do. Do not exclude DTC.
  • Inspire. Inspire our Associates with the tools and products we deliver. Listen to our inspired Athletes.

We also the used the power of video to enhance the campaign

  1. Day In The Life illustrates the employee journey from the point of view of the retail associate
  2. Inspired Athletes. A testimonial video where retail Associates deliver honest and compelling insights of how corporate communications can improve their day-to-day
  3. Executive Validation. Brand President, Trevor Edwards and other leaders reinforce the importance of the retail Associate

Rollout & Results

To reach global HR and Communications leaders across the company we leveraged several channels and vehicles:

  • Leadership Presentations. The campaign was formatted to amplify DTC leader presentations to the HR and Communications leaders at global and retail meetings.
  • Learning Experiences. Online content was produced into a self-paced learning tool for education throughout the company.

The campaign is has resulted in an overall improvement with:

  • HR managers and directors have a better understanding of DTC and the retail Associate has become a priority across Nike.
  • The appetite for this content was so strong that during early reviews of the strategy and campaign, senior Nike executives requested versions of our work in progress to leverage with their leadership teams outside of DTC.
  • More Executives throughout Nike are leveraging the campaign content beyond HR and Communications teams.
  • Although not a traditional success metric for our clients, Vignette is very proud that our Nike client on this campaign received a promotion at the completion of the project, and to us that means success.

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