View Slideshow

Friday evening’s Nike and NBA uniform reveal came with an even bolder statement of what innovation and speed looks like under Nike’s renewed focus on its customers.

The sportswear company took up stage 27 at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City to reveal the full extent of its NBA partnership. The evening was complete with roaming floor-to-ceiling presentation screens, players from all 30 NBA teams, a live performance from Travis Scott, tech demos, to reveal new uniforms and digitally enhanced jerseys for fans. That was followed up Saturday with an invite-only experience celebrating the Air Force 1 in West Hollywood.

Athletes on hand for Friday’s reveal of the Statement Edition uniforms — to be worn for major games — appeared to be won over by their new duds for the 2017-18 season.

Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors called the new looks “next level.”

“I think comfort’s a big factor with this and it just feels good,” noted Paul George of the Oklahoma City Thunder. “It feels good on the court.”

“I really, really like the new uniforms. I think Nike’s done a great job of listening to the guys and knowing exactly what they want,” Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers said.

The business was a major win for Nike, which signed an eight-year merchandising and marketing deal to be the official uniform and apparel maker for the league.

But it was on the fan side that Nike’s Los Angeles event perhaps generated the most attention with its jerseys integrating the company’s NikeConnect technology via a near-field communication chip. Once scanned, the NFC chip provides information on the jersey’s team and player’s name so that when the NikeConnect app is launched, it unlocks a game status bar, future game listings, player stats, special offers tied to game days and a feed of shareable videos and GIFs.

“The Connect jersey is really the next step in the era of connected product and we believe that Connect jersey is truly about making a seamless way to serve the consumer better,” said Adam Sussman, who last year was appointed to be the company’s first-ever chief digital officer.

Just don’t call the jersey — due out Sept. 29 — another wearable. The term’s now become synonymous with gadgetry rather than what appears to be Nike’s bid to build out a full-fledged, highly personalized experience in the digital and real worlds.

“We don’t consider this to be a wearable because it’s a chip in a jersey that basically weighs nothing and adds no cost to the jersey, but it opens up an experience,” Sussman said. “It powers an experience that enables you to really bring you closer to the game and the action, but it’s tied to the profile which is the same profile whether you’re using the Nike Connect jersey or the SNKRS app or the Nike app. We’re focused on building a portfolio of experiences that are targeting very specific consumer needs.”

Nike in June announced its Consumer Direct Offense strategy, which called for reduced production times, creation of a Nike Direct business organization focused on the direct-to-consumer business and the pinpointing of a dozen cities and 10 countries that will account for more than 80 percent of the company’s growth through 2020. The plan also laid out cuts to about 2 percent of Nike’s overall employee base.

In a nutshell, the strategy aims to have the company working more nimbly to get closer to what consumers want.

“When we think about driving speed in our supply chain, it is really about making sure that we are better able to respond to the trends that are in the marketplace, which we see tend to be more amplified in key cities like Los Angeles, like New York City,” said Nike Brand president Trevor Edwards. “What we did in the recent organization structure was we actually set it up so that we have more teams on the ground that provide that feedback. So we’re able to respond much faster in the marketplace and it’s enabled with technology.”

No doubt innovation will continue to be an area the company will focus on in order to try to reach its broader goals.

“We live in a world where everybody has [their] phones in their pockets every day and they check their phones every day,” Sussman said. “Brand connections are being developed through that phone. Over the next 12 months, what you’ll see from us is our continued evolution of our existing experiences or bringing brand new innovation or breakthrough experiences that you’ve never seen before and you’re going to see that across our portfolio.”

Friday’s event was followed by a one-day event Saturday in a space on Robertson Boulevard in West Hollywood called The Ones, dedicated to the Nike Air Force 1. The event for athletes, influencers and entertainers included a wall of more than 380 shoes pulled from the Nike archive in addition to customization stations and a preview of upcoming designs.

The aggregate, both Sussman and Edwards continued to hammer home, is to develop much clearer pictures of Nike customers at a very individualized level.

“It really provides us that opportunity to have that direct connection with our consumers,” Edwards said, using the Connected jersey as an example. “What it allows us to do is understand a kid in Portland, Ore., is a fan of Kyrie Irving in Boston and we’re now able to really then provide that consumer with the best services that’s really right for the passion that they have. By understanding the consumer more we can serve them better, which has always been a part of our direct strategy. I think of it this way: The relationship doesn’t end when you buy something. It begins. That’s the start of the relationship.”

Leveraging data from retail partners also becomes key, perhaps better explaining the rationale in part for the pilot confirmed in June to test selling Nike by Nike as opposed to third-party sellers on Amazon.

“Amazon continues to do some amazing things in terms of how they deliver to their consumers and certainly to their Prime customers,” Edwards said. “The idea that we could work with Amazon was something that we wanted to test. But for us it’s always about making sure that we can give our consumers the best experience possible and that’s in the spirit of us working with them together.”

Even with all the promise technology brings, it’s ultimately a balancing act Nike’s looking to strike between the data technology affords and the creative behind good design.

“You take an insight but then add to that insight factual knowledge. I think that is the future where you’re using both an intuition or hypothesis that’s supported by data,” Edwards said. “The genius comes when you can manage both of those things. You still have the creative geniuses who can actually think up an idea and use information to help support your creative.”

For More West Coast News in WWD:

AAPE Expands to U.S. With Fairfax Flagship

Journelle to Enter West Coast

A New Generation at the House of Bijan Eyes $1B Valuation

Birdies Takes in $2M Seed