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AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman
Kobe Bryant in his signature Nikes.
CATEGORY OFFENSE

Nike is obsessed with basketball, too

Marc Bain
By Marc Bain

Fashion reporter

Nike really loves its sports metaphors. On a March 19 call with investors, executives including CEO Mark Parker talked frequently about the company’s “category offense.”

They were referring to the variety of products Nike offers across a spectrum of sports and price points, which helped the company increase its fiscal third-quarter revenue by 7% to $7.5 billion. The growth came primarily from the Nike brand (with revenue up 11% to $6.9 billion) and from a 33% jump in revenue for Converse, which generated $538 million in sales.

Of the sports covered in Nike’s metaphorical offense, basketball was the one the company kept singling out as one of its top performers. This marked Nike’s 14th consecutive quarter of double-digit sales growth for its basketball products.

Nobody talked up LeBron James’s role in that, but they should have. Nike sold $340 million worth of the Cleveland Cavaliers star’s signature sneakers in the 12-month period ending in January. New signature sneakers including the Kobe 10 and Kyrie 1 also helped spur the increase.

Another bright spot for Nike was online sales. Nike.com sales were up 42% in the quarter, and the company noted that for the first time ever its mobile traffic exceeded desktop traffic. The mobile bump was helped along by the launch of Nike’s Snkrs app, which debuted last month—fittingly during the NBA All-Star weekend.

With all the basketball talk, it was inevitable that the subject of a potential NBA sponsorship would come up. Adidas, which currently holds the sponsorship deal, recently announced that it wouldn’t bid to renew the contract when it expires in 2017, leaving Nike and Under Armour as the companies best-positioned to take it over.

Nike wasn’t biting though. One of the executives on the call said, “With regard to the NBA, there’s nothing further to share at this time.”

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