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How Nike Is Rethinking The Way Kids PLAY

Nike is rethinking the way kids PLAY for the future. We’ve always heard about the importance of children being involved in physical activities such as sports and how beneficial it can be for kids in many different elements as they grow and navigate their early lives. Nike has been one of the power players in helping both children and parents through their many various programs and youth-themed apparel, working hard to make sports fun and accessible through their Nike Kids Offense initiative—a program focused on breaking down the emotional and physical barriers to sport for Gen Alpha.

Nike Kids prides itself on sparking the joy of play through its products, consumer experiences, and community programs, bridging the connection between physical movement, freedom, and discovery. The legendary brand also continuously explores different ways of promoting PLAY for kids, from inclusive duel-gendered products led with insights from female athletes to the 120-plus community partners worldwide. Nike is keeping kids at the center with their Made to Play commitment

We spoke with Nike VP/GM of North America Kids, Karie Conner, who is currently leading the team in inspiring the next generation of athletes to reimagine sport through play to learn more about what Nike is working on in their youth department.

ONE37pm: Nike has always been committed to kids as helping and providing for the youth is always at the forefront. Could you expand more on PLAY for kids and how the initiative is creating products, experiences, and community programs?

Conner: At Nike, we believe an active generation means a healthier and more equitable future. We’ve learned through research that active kids are healthier, happier, and lead more successful lives. Igniting the joy of movement is the key to igniting the joy of sport, and we believe play is the gateway. Play is at the center of everything we do at Nike Kids. It allows our design team to create products that solve for all forms of movement and expression. And it guides how we identify and partner with community organizations to make play, movement, and sport accessible to all kids.

ONE37pm: We loved your recent story How Nike is Turning Play Into a Lifestyle for Kids. Staying active and fit is especially important amongst children. Could you expand a little more into the program?

Conner: Nike Playlist was designed to bring Gen Alpha and their families movement, play, and fun in the form of kid-friendly digital activities. The future of play is creative, inclusive, and unlimited in possibility. Playlist and activities are inspired by all kinds of movements like dance, yoga, jumping, running, and more.

Through research, we’ve learned that kids who tune in love playing with their favorite athletes and, more often than not, move with Nike Playlist content. 65+ Nike athletes and Playlist have helped inspire kids to play more than 3.5 million hours, including LeBron James, Sky Brown, Crystal Dunn, and A’ja Wilson. Nike Playlist Season 9 launches October 23 on YouTube, and new episodes will be available every Saturday through the end of the year.

ONE37pm: How about the community element? Is there anything Nike is working on right now that can you tell us about?

Conner: Made to Play is Nike’s commitment – in partnership with community partners on the ground – to get kids moving through play and sport, so they can lead healthier, happier, and more successful lives. We partner with 100+ grassroots organizations around the world that allow us to reach kids through insights-driven and locally relevant programming. 

When it comes to getting kids excited about playing sports, a great coach can make all the difference. That’s why we’ve developed free resources and are working with our partners to recruit and train caring adults, who reflect the kids in their communities, to coach and create more inclusive play and sport environments.

Here in the U.S., we’re partnering with the Center for Healing and Justice through Sport (CHJS) to train our Nike Community Ambassadors — employee volunteers from our Nike Rise stores — using best practices in positive coaching, trauma-informed sports, and engaging with girls in sports. Together we’re creating coaches that will inspire more kids to play and remain active through sports.

ONE37pm: Let’s switch over to the products. What has been the strategy in terms of product releases with school and fall sports coming back?

Conner: We are innovating and designing for kids, first. Play is at the center of everything for Nike Kids. Instead of solving sport-specific problems, we’re able to meet kids where they are day-to-day. We’re providing them with solutions that keep them engaged, moving, and having fun regardless of the activity. We’ve advanced our approach to designing for kids, specifically fine-tuning fit and feel for the growing body. Our products are designed with a focus on kids’ life stages, from first steps to first sport, to get and keep them moving.

As kids return to school and sport, Nike Air Zoom Crossover is designed to provide the best fit possible for all kids. For example, we created a totally new foot last, the foot-shaped model that we build shoes around, that provides space for growing toes to move and spread out while still providing comfort and lateral support.

ONE37pm: Anything else on the horizon for 2021/early 2022?

Conner: We will continue to create more playtime with the launch of Nike Playlist Season 9 on October 23 on YouTube, with guest appearances from a number of Nike athletes.

You can keep up with all of Nike’s latest updates on their official website, Instagram, and Twitter. You can also catch the season nine debut of Nike Playlist with Olympic Gold Medalist Chloe Kim here.

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