How Nike Is Changing the Future of Kids in Sports Through Size Inclusion, Diversity & Play

Everybody wins when inclusion is a part of the game plan, which is integral to how Nike is redefining what participation in sports looks like for children. Spanning products to representation, the brand is stepping up to the plate to meet kids where they are today.

“I think what it used to look like when it came to product was that it was very take-down, so you saw a lot of products like your Air Force One—you can get it in men’s, women’s and you can get it in kids,” said Karie Conner, vice president and general manager of the North America kids’ Business at Nike.

“I think the future is just taking that and continue to build on top of that,” Conner added. “We’re going to continue to bring the Air Force Ones and all the things we did in the past—we’re going to continue to do that—and we’re going to continue to build on top of that with more kids-first product.”

nike kids inclusive sizing, product innovation
Nike children’s product.
CREDIT: Meher Kourouyan

In fact, Nike conducted more than 10,000 body scans along with research on their consumers—both parents and children—to assess what type of product solutions are needed the most.

For instance, ACG (All Conditions Gear) products have been expanded for kids, eliminating barriers to stay active in cold and wet conditions.

nike kids inclusive sizing, product innovation, easy on slip on shoes
Nike children’s product.
CREDIT: Meher Kourouyan

Nike is hitting a home run with parents with easy-on, easy-off children’s technology.

The Dynamo Go, which launched last year, offers children a hands-free sneaker experience. The silhouette has an entry system where the back of the shoe compresses while stepping into the footbed, and then it pops back up.

And the Air Max 270, with its easy-on construction, is expected to release its children’s model later this year.

nike kids inclusive sizing, product innovation, easy on slip on shoes, nike air kids sneakers
Nike children’s product.
CREDIT: Meher Kourouyan

Nike also leveraged its get-in and go innovation in FlyEase apparel, which debuted in spring.

“You’ll see not only easy-on and off show up in footwear, but you’re going to also see it in apparel,” Conner said. “That means that a kid could literally put on a jacket with one hand, or put on a hoodie with one hand, and really make it easy for them to be able to dress themselves.”

Nike’s body scan research also helped to inform sizing, yielding collections with a diverse range of body types. The findings showed that boys and girls have the same body proportions until puberty, so apparel has been redefined overall into one fit.

“You’ll start to see the power of it—and that’s in the next few seasons, where you’ll walk into a Dick’s Sporting Goods and you’ll see literally this one section of all kids,” Conner explained. “Parents have a great shopping experience and being able to choose exactly what is the right look for their kid and not having to think about how do you shop for boys or the girls section. It’s just one section, then it fits all kids.”

Serving young consumers throughout their physical development is another initiative Nike has embraced to make the playing field—at retail and in sports—more equitable for girls. By 14 years old, girls drop out of sports at double the rate of boys, according to Nike.

So, offering sports bras with enhanced performance technology and comfort, and guidance for adults on how to have conversations about sports bras are among the brand’s strategies to keep girls engaged.

nike kids inclusive sizing, product innovation, sports bras for girls
Nike children’s product.
CREDIT: Meher Kourouyan

Latina and Black girls in underserved communities have the lowest participation in sports, so this year Nike is stepping up to the plate with LA84 Foundation’s Play Equity Fund in Los Angeles and Laureus USA in New York City) to launch Made to Play Neighborhoods, a three-year program that recruits young athletes of color.

Nike is also throwing a curveball toward how sports are defined—play, movement and activity of all sorts are now viewed under this umbrella. “We’re seeing the emergence of more unstructured sport, especially with this next generation.”

On that score, Nike is investing in early positive experiences.

The brand unveiled its partnership with Camp, a family-focused experiential company, on sports-themed play place in Los Angeles at Westfield Century Mall on Nov. 19. The immersive experience offers kids whimsical interactions with different sports categories—and an emphasis on play over competition.

Props like floppy fish and life-size plastic bacon strips replace baseball bats, and opportunities to slam dunk a basketball with a height-adjustable hoop and a springboard to catapult you to the net.

“These rooms are really kind of flipping sport on its head, and really allowing kids to just be silly and have fun and just immerse themselves in a kid-way,” Conner said.

Nike plans on expanding the concept to other locations. Game on.

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