Nicole Hubbard Graham is headed back to Nike, this time as chief marketing officer. Graham, who spent 18 years at the company before leaving to start an agency, replaces Dirk-Jan "DJ" van Hameren, who is retiring after 31 years with Nike, the last six as CMO.
The changes come as Nike continues to face weaker sales in North America and considerable shifts in the way consumers are thinking about footwear and other apparel.
John Hoke, who had been the first chief design officer, moves to chief innovation officer. Martin Lotti, who has worked in the company’s design division for 26 years and has been overseeing design at the Jordan brand, moves into the chief design role.
The company says it hopes the changes will elevate its products. "Innovation, design, and storytelling have always been the heart and soul of Nike,” said Heidi O’Neill, president of consumer, product and brand, in Nike’s announcement. “These leadership changes enable us to obsess further our unparalleled innovation, product, design, and storytelling to reimagine sport for the next generation of athletes."
Nike spends about $4.1 billion on marketing per year.
The company also hired Muge Erdirik Dogan, who had been president of Amazon Fashion, as chief technology officer.
In its most recent earnings, Nike’s revenues gained 2% for the fiscal first quarter, rising to $12.9 billion.
But Nike’s sales fell in North America, with footwear slipping 2% to $3.7 billion, and apparel off 1% to $1.5 billion.
Adidas and Under Armour also face weaker sales as consumers pare back discretionary spending. But newer brands, including On Running and Deckers Brands’ Hoka, are red-hot and running away with consumers’ hearts.
That’s made some observers question whether Nike might be losing more than a few steps in its market-share dominance.
“We think investors are looking for greater clarity on current product strength and brand health amid concerns that Air Max, Dunks and Jordan are slowing,” writes Jonathan Komp, an analyst who follows the company for Baird Securities.
He continues to rate the company as likely to outperform its peers “despite near-term uncertainties.”
Others are also bullish. The Nike brand gives it considerable power over other companies, writes David Swartz, an analyst who follows the company for Morningstar. “We anticipate that Nike will hold its position in North America,” he says, forecasting 3% annual average sales growth in the region for the next decade. He notes that the U.S. sportswear market in North America, worth roughly $146 billion in 2022, is more than double the size of China's, the second-largest market.
“While the North American sportswear market is highly competitive,” he says, “we believe Nike can hold its market position due to innovation, sponsorships, and the enduring popularity of its brands.”