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Nike has long positioned itself as being all about inclusivity. And now, with the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France serving as a springboard, the Swoosh is refocusing its approach and hoping it can change women’s sports across the board, all the way from the grassroots to the pros. Going forward, Nike wants you to know it’s all-in on women.
This year’s Women’s World Cup has already shown that interest in the women’s game is rising. The BBC reports that a record 6.1 million people tuned in to watch England beat Scotland on June 9. That figure dwarfed the 1.2 million who watched the men’s team play Switzerland that same afternoon (albeit only available via pay-TV broadcaster Sky). Similarly, the United States’ 13-0 annihilation of Thailand recorded the best-metered rating for a soccer telecast on an English-language network since 2018’s men’s World Cup final on Fox.
Sarah Hannah, VP GM of Nike Women’s in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, says, “[The Women’s World Cup is] a tipping point, not just for women’s football but for women’s sport.”
The tournament marks the first time Nike has made dedicated jerseys for all of the participating women’s teams it sponsors, a luxury previously reserved for the US women’s national team. It has also seen the launch of Nike’s “Dream Further” campaign, which features 10-year-old Makena Cook alongside some of Nike’s biggest stars, including Germany’s Sara Däbritz, Brazil’s Neymar, and the USA’s Crystal Dunn.
“We recognized that there’s an opportunity for us to do more. And there is no better time than now to really ensure that we are providing and serving our female footballers with the right kit,” explains Hannah. “Our whole focus has been on creating idols in sport for our young girls and to inspire the next generation of female athletes.”
While Nike’s campaigns and women’s team-dedicated jerseys are a business decision in the face of women’s football’s growing popularity, they also lay the foundation for a broader approach to women’s sports. Hannah states Nike’s goal clearly: “It is our intent to ensure that we are the most inclusive brand in the world.”
To achieve this, Hannah believes Nike needs not only to inspire the next generation but also to provide them with the best products, tailored to their specific needs. That means having the right team working on the project.
“I think the most important thing is that anyone who works within the women’s business has a real deep understanding of the female consumer,” Hannah says. “The more we show young girls what success looks like, the more it inspires young children to play sports and be involved. I think we will continue to support that strategy with the intent that, in years to come, football, for example, will become much more of dual-gender or a gender-neutral sport.”
Nike believes it can create a positive cycle, inspiring new athletes and helping grow the audience for women’s sports. And as women’s sports grow, more young girls will aspire to be like the women they see on TV and so on.
Nike’s inclusivity extends to its roster of designers and collaborators. Most recently, Yoon Ahn, Christelle Kocher, Erin Magee, and Marine Serre reimagined the soccer jersey in their own styles. Before that, we saw the release of “The 1 Reimagined,” a sneaker pack featuring elevated takes on the Air Force 1 and Air Jordan 1 for women.
Moving further from performance product, Cactus Plant Flea Market’s Air VaporMax, defined as a women’s sneaker, was one of the most hyped releases of the year among both male and female sneakerheads. Hannah believes such examples show there’s a huge opportunity for unisex products, albeit adding, “We can’t forget that actually there is and there always will be a need to design specifically for him and for her.”
She continues: “We’ve always designed specifically for him, but we haven’t always designed specifically for her, and it’s something that we will be doing more and more of. You’re going to see more and more of Nike looking at making sure that women, whatever sport they play, have the right product to play confidently in.”
Additional reporting for this story was done by Heather Snowden.
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