One-on-One with Nike Brand President Charlie Denson

Today, Nike announced that it is bringing the world's best basketball teams to New York City for something called the World Basketball Festival.

The shoe and apparel giant will bring all its brands together—Converse, Jordan and Nike—from August 12-15 and will feature members of the 2010 USA Basketball National Team in three locations, including Times Square, Rucker Park and Madison Square Garden. I spoke to Nike Brand president Charlie Denson about the event and about other topics.

Charlie Denson, Nike Brand President
Charlie Denson, Nike Brand President

Darren: How important is the basketball business to you?

Denson: It's incredibly important because it's really one of two sports that we consider a global game, along with soccer. We thought that something like this was a good idea as the world championships start to become a significant event.

Darren: Lots of conspiracy theorists say that Nike will have a say in where LeBron goes in free agency. True?

Denson: The most important thing for LeBron and the most important thing for us is that he go to a place where he can win titles. He's clearly a personality that people are interested in, but he ultimately needs to win championships.

Darren: Many people say that the top market for LeBron would be New York, when for you, it's really China.

Denson: Well, there has been a paradigm shift. We're dealing with a global game in terms of marketing.

Darren: The category of toning has turned into a $1.5 billion business and Nike has been criticized for sitting out of that business. Is that fair?

Denson: We think it's great that women are interested in athletic footwear and apparel that involve natural motion and you'll see us develop more product that focus on this. But the natural motion product that we believe in is our Nike Free brand and that's where we will continue to focus.

Darren: How big of a business will the World Cup be to you?

Denson: This is our biggest World Cup ever as our soccer business continues to grow and we undeniably are the largest soccer company in the world (including the Umbro brand). We also are proud that what we've put out there into the global market is our best product line ever.

Darren: Not many marketers can say they owned Stephen Strasburg from the start, but the Washington Nationals rookie has an endorsement deal with you. How do you see him fitting in to your marketing?

Denson: His performance last night proved that he has great potential. It's amazing that a rookie debut that had as much coverage as it did was fulfilled in terms of the hype. We think it's good for baseball, good for Nike and good for the Nationals.

Questions? Comments?