Nike is one company, which has always thrived amongst controversies is back on the news again for all the wrong reasons. Nike’s hyperactive advanced shoes- Vaporfly is drawing flak from the athletic community as it allegedly gives the runners an unfair advantage over others. Nike’s Vaporfly is so good and efficient that it is on the cusp of being banned by the governing body World Athletics. Last year, Vaporfly was used Kenyan runners Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei and incidentally world records were broken in both the cases. Read more on Nike Vaporfly: the potential ban in this article.
Vaporfly has been super successful at the global level (Source- Nike)
In an interview to the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Marathon Legend Rob de Castella publicly criticised the shoe by terming it ludicrous and against the spirit of the game. In a study by the New York Times, the shoe gave 4% extra advantage to the runners where the difference between the winners is in seconds; it is indeed a big deal.
The Secret Sauce behind the Nike Vaporfly
Let’s decode what makes the Vaporfly so successful and controversial. The secret lies in the shoe’s sole. In addition to protecting the legs on impact while running at high speeds, Vaporfly stores energy and releases them, which propels the runner forward. The midsole acts like a spring, compressing when a runner lands the foot on it, storing the energy from that foot strike, and expanding again to return the energy into the ground which pushes the runner forward.
Nike has been synonymous with controversies. Here is a snapshot of the most recent ones-
In 2018, Nike chartered hot waters when it signed controversial NFL sports athlete Colin Kaepernick who gained mass attention for kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality against African Americans.
Last year, Nike was on the news after it cancelled the release of its much-awaited sneaker bearing the 13-star American flag of Betsy Ross on the shoe’s heel. The thirteen-star flag represented America during a time of slavery and had been used in tandem with the Confederate flag by hate groups including the Ku Klux Klan. According to TheStreet, the decision to scrap the design came after Kaepernick voiced his criticisms privately to the brand. Nike received dissension from many users for not taking a patriotic stand, as it is a part of the “American culture”.
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Olympics & Vaporfly
If the governing body upholds the pleas for the ban then Nike would be in a race against time to get the decision overturned through the Court of Arbitration for Sport for the Olympics, which are slated to begin from 24th July in Tokyo. If banned, it is very unlikely that Nike would be able to feature Vaporfly because the Court of Arbitration is notoriously slow in decision-making. For Nike, the Olympics remains the biggest platform to display its products and create mass awareness amongst its consumer base.
Athletes might have to shift to different shoes during the Olympics
Nike is known for transforming bans into major brand campaigns. When the NBA had banned Michael Jordan’s first sneakers it was able to extract great mileages for the brand. Distance performance running is a small fraction of its $39 billion business so the impact wouldn’t be significant.
Win-Win for Nike Vaporfly
According to Matt Powell, senior sports analyst who in an interview to Reuters said, “Controversy is good for sales,” “Nike has not made a lot of pairs here, so (there is) no real financial impact. Amateur runners can still run in these shoes.” The controversy has already stirred up a lot of conversation.
If the shoes get banned Nike would still be able to sell them in its stores. Sports enthusiasts would still opt for the shoe for the extra oomph.