Comfort begins with `N'

Nike unveiled the end product of research and development of a different kind at the historic Olympic Stadium in Berlin. The presence of Adriano, Luis Figo and Ruud van Nistelrooy provided much excitement, writes S. R. Suryanarayan.

Gone are the days when sports accessories firms perceived their brand ambassadors as people who merely helped them get mileage. In a world driven by pursuit of excellence and pushing of frontiers, Nike believes that the best business strategy lies in learning the smallest requirement of an athlete and providing the best equipment to assist the sportsperson in improving performance levels. Be inspired (by the sportsperson in question) and innovate, is Nike's mantra, and the firm's long-standing link with football is all about adherence to this.

The Ronaldos and the Ronaldinhos have inspired the company's growth and performance. The company, in return, makes special football boots for them in keeping with their specific demands and requirements.

The company has even started manufacturing special jerseys (the Nike Sphere Dry Apparel), which lays emphasis on bodily comfort and preservation of energy and also adheres to the specific cultural ethos of the country the footballer represents. "Each jersey features visual icons drawn from that particular country's sporting history and cultural identity," said Peter Hudson, Global Creative Director of Nike Football.

This is research and development of a different kind, and its end product was unveiled before the world recently by Nike in its global launch held in Berlin at the historic Olympic Stadium. Over 200 journalists from various parts of the world were present, as were some of the well-known names in the game. Nike had invited a player each from eight partner nations that had qualified for World Cup 2006.

The immensely popular Brazilian magician Adriano, the veteran Portuguese midfielder Luis Figo, and the ruthless scoring machine from Holland, Ruud van Nistelrooy, were there apart from Damascus Beasley (USA), Park Ji-Sung (Korea), Jared Borgetti (Mexico), Marco Bresciano (Australia) and Dado Prso (Croatia). They were all clad in their brand new outfits. Nike has 14 national teams as its partners, and India is the latest entrant in the list. When the eight players got on stage, the photographers and cameramen became active. As for the journalists seeking to get a word from each, it was a delight to hear each speak a few words.

With the World Cup dates nearing, the focus of the players was on the competition and none of them wanted to sound disenchanted. "Hoping for success," was the refrain of all eight, though the world knows that those words coming from Adriano have an added significance.