Some brands strive to win favor with fashionistas; others cultivate credibility among sports enthusiasts. And then there’s Nike—the company that established its name among athletes now hosts runway shows, collaborates with top designers, and is the most-mentioned fashion brand on Instagram. It’s invested years of research in creating a new sports bra, a woven-yarn running shoe, and a soccer cleat that rises above the ankle. Now, it’s turning up the focus on the female market.
While the sportswear giant has long made women’s apparel, brands like Under Armour (UA) and Lululemon have been far more vocal in their courtship of women. To woo new women buyers, Nike cast 27 top female athletes in a runway show, recently opened its first women’s-only retail store, and launched its biggest-ever female-focused advertising push with the “Better for It” campaign. The company predicts that its women’s line could add USD $2 billion in additional sales by 2017.
Nike has announced that fiscal 2015 marked its most profitable year ever in North America. It’s also made inroads in China—where it had previously struggled with unsold inventory and tame reception to product launches. Compared to its brand positioning in the U.S. and Europe, Nike has cultivated a more premium brand in China by reducing inventory and repositioning its stores. Nike’s second women’s-only retail store is slated to open in Shanghai soon.
Nike continues to adapt its message of personal empowerment for a new generation. In addition to “Better for It,” there was the whimsical World Cup–themed “Winner Stays On,” a tribute to LeBron James following his NBA defeat, and an ode to the last-place marathon finisher. The brand also created variations of the iconic “Just Do It” tagline for countries like South Korea, China, and Turkey.
Change is in the air for Nike. Earlier this year, cofounder Phil Knight announced plans to retire in 2016. The man who made “Just Do It” a household phrase has long claimed to be in the business of entertainment, a statement he’s backed with eye-catching media blitzes like the pop-up LED-screen “Zoom City Arena” in NYC, built to display customized content and interactive training programs during the NBA All-Star Weekend. New CEO Mark Parker is expected to continue Knight’s legacy.