Just Did It: Nike launched a new marketing campaign this week, centered around Colin Kaepernick. Needless to say, this has ignited a great deal of controversy. Some people have made a great show of destroying their Nike merchandise on social media, others are praising the move, and the President has decided that his own financial interests are what truly matters. This has led some to declare that this is a risky move for the athletic apparel giant, inserting itself into an extremely contentious political environment, and applauding Nike’s courage. The thing is, though, that this move isn’t nearly as risky as it appears at first glance. From Vox:

In 2017, Nike announced that the company planned to center its products and marketing on consumers living in 12 cities around the world: New York, London, Shanghai, Beijing, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Paris, Berlin, Mexico City, Barcelona, Seoul, and Milan. In a press release, the company said, “These key cities and countries are expected to represent over 80 percent of Nike’s projected growth through 2020.”


Young people living in big cities in the United States like Los Angeles and New York — cities that are generally more racially and ethnically diverse than the areas surrounding them — are also supportive of Kaepernick’s protest efforts and generally opposed to Trump, tending to be more left-leaning in general. That means that for companies like Nike, appealing to them — and not to their parents or to their Republican-voting older neighbor — makes sense.

              Winning an election and running a successful, multi-national company are 2 very different endeavors. Republicans are also over-represented in the electorate because older voters have much better turnout, the Electoral College and the Senate give greater representation to rural states, and the Republican Party has engaged in extreme gerrymandering over the last decade. Republican voters tend to be older and more rural. These are not the consumers that Nike wants to go after. They want young, urban consumers. They may not vote but they do buy. 

              The other thing is that if your brand is for everyone, then it’s for no one. Every brand needs an identity, which means that it won’t be for everyone. Nike wants to be a brand for younger consumers and understands that if it wants to get through to them, it needs to have a distinct voice.

But that’s not the message the company has put forward in its advertising, even before it became an athletic behemoth worldwide. In Nike ads, Nike is for people who want to fight the power and start a revolution. In fact, Nike used the Beatles’ song “Revolution” in an ad in 1987, obtaining the rights to the song from John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono.

In an interview with the Harvard Business Review in 1992, Knight said that marketing was the key to Nike’s strength and added, “We’ve always believed that to succeed with the consumer, you have to wake him up. He’s not going to walk in and buy the same stuff he always has or listen to the same thing he’s always heard.” He added that criticism of the company’s marketing strategy wasn’t a problem for him:

If the phone rings, that’s usually good. Although some of the calls will be negative, complaints tend to be in the great minority. Besides, we’re always prepared for some criticism because somebody will be offended no matter what we do. We don’t let that hold us back. Our basic philosophy is the same throughout the business: take a chance and learn from it.

              If this was such a risky move, then why were Adidas and Puma so eager to sign Kaepernick if Nike had let his contract lapse? From Yahoo Sports:

Whether that gamble pays off remains to be seen. But Nike apparently wasn’t the only shoe company that eyed a larger platform for Kaepernick. Industry insiders told Yahoo Sports that Adidas and Puma were among multiple brands that had conversations about potentially building around Kaepernick if Nike failed to renew his deal following a long stretch of endorsement inactivity.

“We talked about Colin in March. A lot, actually,” one shoe industry executive said. “We all know the specific kind of deals NFL players are on with each other. His deal was running out and he had a shoe commitment that hadn’t been done for whatever reason. I’m sure it was because of everything that was going on around him. But it looked like Nike was running out the clock on [his deal] because he didn’t have a lot of time left and nothing was really happening with him. So there were some discussions for us about what kind of an endorser he could be.

“It’s apparent that, you know, even though he isn’t playing, he’s still connecting with a lot of people. I also think he’s exponentially more popular, and in some cases unpopular, than he ever was in the NFL.”

              People also underestimate how tough it can be to boycott a company like Nike. Nike sponsors the University of Alabama (as well as Texas, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, USC, and the entire NFL). Are Crimson Tide fans going to forsake their school and not wear team gear this fall because of this? My guess is that they are not. Plus, the right wing outrage machine will move onto something else next week.

Metabolism: Vox published a piece on spending 23 hours in one of the National Institute of Health’s metabolic chambers. The chambers are designed to measure a person’s metabolic rate by tracking calories ingested, amount of sleep, activity levels, oxygen consumed, and CO2 produced. Researchers at the NIH are trying to figure out how human metabolism works in order to combat the obesity epidemic. The disheartening thing is that we still know so little:

 Many basic metabolism mysteries remain. It’s not fully known why two people with the same size and body composition have different metabolic rates. They also don’t know why people can have different metabolic responses to weight gain (where some people with obesity develop insulin resistance and diabetes, for example, and others don’t). They don’t know why certain ethnic groups — African Americans, South Asians — have a higher risk of developing metabolic disorders like diabetes, and why people with diabetes have a higher cardiovascular disease risk.

They haven’t even figured out how the brain knows what the body weighs and, therefore, the mechanism that controls our metabolic rate.

“If I knew how the brain is aware of how much the body weighs, and how to regulate how many calories it burned off, I could change that setting and help an overweight person burn more calories through an increase in metabolic rate,” NIH metabolism and brown fat researcher Aaron Cypess told me over the phone before my stay.

Cypess is using the chambers to work toward that, and figure out whether there might be a drug that can do what very cold temperatures do: help people burn more calories. These and other studies in the chamber are a gold mine for data on the metabolism’s mysteries — data that could eventually help uncover cures for obesity and diabetes.

              Is another drug really the answer? I know everyone’s body is different but I have never met someone whose body did not respond to exercise and better nutrition at all. That makes everyone healthier to some degree. I believe that this type of research is extremely valuable but I don’t think that the end goal should be more medications. The solution to the obesity epidemic is simple (we need to get people moving and eating less) but it is hard. Research in this field could help us develop better, more personalized exercise and nutrition plans for people. I don’t love the idea of a fat pill because (1) there are usually unintended consequences of putting foreign substances in your body for long periods and (2) the obesity epidemic is already a crisis of the lower class. An expensive pharmaceutical will only exacerbate that inequality.

Wearables: When I think of smartwatches, one brand comes to mind: Apple. A company that doesn’t come to mind is Google. The tech giant is a laggard in the field, which is a bit curious. From CNET:

Apple doesn't reveal sales figures for the device, but market researcher IDC estimates that nearly half of the 43.5 million smartwatches shipped this year will come from Apple. Google's Wear OS trails behind at 12 percent. And Android Wear, which is still used by some watchmakers, should total 18 percent of shipments. By 2022, Android Wear and Wear OS combined are expected to catch up to Apple.

"While Apple will undoubtedly lead in this category, what bears watching is how Google and its partners move forward," IDC analyst Jitesh Ubrani noted in June. He said that Wear OS has been "somewhat of a laggard," and even with its changes, it faces tough competition.

Samsung, Google's biggest Android partner, has shunned Wear OS in favor of Tizen, its own operating system for watches, TVs and other devices. Earlier this month, it introduced its new Galaxy Watch, which starts at $330 and should give Wear OS even more competition.

              Google has not only ceded ground to Apple, its main competitor in smartphones, it has allowed Samsung, its biggest Android partner, to break away and introduce its proprietary OS to consumers. Samsung would love to ditch Android and install Tizen on all of its devices but that it is a lot harder than it sounds. Smartwatches might not be a huge market yet but Google has allowed an opening to form.

In the first quarter of 2017, Tizen leapfrogged Google's Android Wear software to become the second biggest operating system for smartwatches with 19 percent market share, according to Strategy Analytics. Apple, with its watchOS, had 57 percent of the market.

"It makes sense for Samsung to say, 'Use Android where it does best,' but Tizen has a really useful role to play in wearables and other places where Android has fallen short," Jackdaw Research analyst Jan Dawson said.

              Most people still probably haven’t heard of Tizen but this means that developers will start to create apps for it and consumers will start to get comfortable using it. I’m not going to say that Google won’t recover in smartwatches but it’s surprising to see Google drop the ball like this. Even if they weren’t big believers in smartwatches, they aren’t many new categories in consumer electronics anymore. It seems pretty egregious to neglect smartwatches as you see Apple gearing up to dominate the market. Perhaps they are too focused on Google Glass Enterprise.  

CrossFit: The first qualifying event for the CrossFit Games has been announced and, not surprisingly, it is the event formerly known as the Dubai Fitness Championship. Going forward, it is the Dubai CrossFit Championship. From Morning Chalk Up:

Just one week after we broke the news about format changes coming to the CrossFit Games season, which included new official sanctioned events, CrossFit announced the Dubai CrossFit Championship as the first ever sanctioned event. 

“The Dubai CrossFit Championship marks the beginning of a new chapter for CrossFit,” said Greg Glassman, CrossFits Founder and Chairman. The miracle of CrossFit happens in each one of our affiliates that help people get healthy and stay that way. Partnering with organizations like the folks in Dubai means we can really focus on that core mission. Through CrossFit sanctioned events like the Dubai CrossFit Championship, we’ll be able to keep pace with the growth of this international sport.”

The Dubai CrossFit Championship, formerly known as the Dubai Fitness Championship, is a four-day official CrossFit competition in Dubai which will take place the second week of December.

I think that it’s significant that CrossFit is letting the qualifying events put CrossFit in their title. Prior to this, CrossFit was very clear about drawing a line between official CrossFit events and the plethora of CrossFit-inspired fitness competitions that have sprung up over the last few years. This is a huge incentive for event organizers to affiliate with CrossFit and become a qualifying event. There were some skeptics that didn’t think that events would want to sacrifice some of their autonomy in order to be a qualifying event but I doubted that before and even more so now. I think that if you’re an event organizer and your event isn’t an official CrossFit event, then your event will be considered 2nd tier. There may be some trepidation right now because there is so much uncertainty but I think that this will get competitive. I am interested to see how much CrossFit fosters that competition or if they mostly stick with the events that signed up early.

Update: The Granite Games has been announced as the 2nd qualifying event. There was no mention of changing the name of the event.


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