Nike Inc. is leaning in to its mission to be a purpose-driven brand.
In its latest effort in response to the COVID-19 crisis, the athletic behemoth announced today its plan to donate 32,500 pairs of Air Zoom Pulse sneakers as well as other product, totaling more than $5.5 million in value, to health-care workers in the hardest-hit global cities.
“What we’re donating now is our current inventory of the Air Zoom pulse all across the U.S. and Europe,” said Jorge Casimiro, Nike’s chief social and community impact officer. “When we can come to a decision like this one, it’s really a cross-functional [effort] across Nike that this is the most authentic expression of what we can continue to do around COVID-19.”
The shoes — which were launched late last year for those in the health-care industry — will go to frontline healthcare workers in Barcelona, Berlin, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, Memphis, Milan, New York City, Paris and across Belgium.
Nike is working with Good360, a charity that helps businesses donate excess product, to distribute 30,000 pairs of the Air Zoom Pulse sneakers to health systems in Chicago, Los Angeles, Memphis and New York City. An additional 2,500 pairs are being donated to hospitals across Europe, including Barcelona, Berlin, London, Milan, Paris and in Belgium. The Veterans Health Administration will also receive pairs from Good360.
To encourage health-care practitioners, Nike — which made headlines last month for its inspiring #PlayInside campaign that encouraged everyday people to “play” for millions around the world by staying inside and curbing the spread of coronavirus — has tapped world-class athletes with “personal connections” with each key city.
Casey Short, of the Chicago Red Stars; Joc Pederson of the LA Dodgers; Ja Morant, of the Memphis Grizzlies; Sabrina Ionescu, the No. 1 overall WNBA draft pick for the New York Liberty; Anni Espar Llaquet, Spanish National Team water polo player for Barcelona; Nafissatou “Nafi” Thiam, Olympic gold medalist in Track and Field for Belgium; Joshua Buatsi, Olympic boxer for London; Cristina Chirichella, Italian National Team volleyball player for Milan; and Amandine Henry, French National Team captain for Paris will all take to their personal Instagram pages today to post a “thank you” to health-care workers.
“[We want frontline workers] to feel our sincere gratitude and appreciation for everything that they’re doing,” explained Casimiro. “They are on the frontlines. They are our health-care athletes and they are doing everything they can every day to make sure that we come out of this pandemic as best as possible. And this is our sincere appreciation in a manner that is authentic to what we do.”
He added, “We make and sell the most innovative shoes on the planet and we want to make sure that these health-care workers can benefit from that.”
As has been the case with giveaways by other boldface brands like Crocs and Allbirds, freebies can get snapped up and the well runs dry very quickly. To that end, Casimiro said Nike is preparing itself to respond to a potential demand for more product from frontline workers as well as other similar needs.
“We’ll continue to listen to and support the athletes,” Casimiro said. “That’s something that Nike has proven time and time again … So I think if there is a great reception to this product donation, we’ll continue to listen and see what we can do to continue partnering effectively.”
In total, Nike’s donation, announced today, comprises 140,000 items, including the Zoom footwear as well as apparel and equipment globally. Apparel and accessories include Dri-FIT t-shirts, socks with compression features and other essential items.
Nike announced last month that, in response to a global shortage of personal protective equipment, it had developed face shields and powered, air-purifying respirator (PAPR) lenses in partnership with health professionals from Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). To date, the Swoosh has shipped 130,000 units of PPE to 20-plus hospitals in Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon and Tennessee.
Today’s donation brings the value of Nike’s overall COVID-19 philanthropy donations to more than $25 million.
In mid-March, the Beaverton, Ore.-based athletic giant pledged over $15 million to fight the virus, including $10 million in contributions from Phil Knight, co-founder and chairman emeritus, Mark Parker, former CEO and current executive chairman of the board, and John Donahoe, the company’s new president and CEO.
The executives and their families are donating $1 million to the Oregon Food Bank, $2 million to the Oregon Community Recovery Fund and $7 million to Oregon Health & Science University.