How Nike could use blockchain to deliver on its brand promise.


Equality. This is not about any one issue surrounding race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, or political view this is a statement about humanity. This represents a brand that is courageous in what they stand for and wants to be part of the conversation in society. In my opinion, the net result is pure. marketing. brilliance.

But how could they make this promise stronger? Moving beyond just words into the act of “story doing” to further strengthen its brand equity? The answer...blockchain. I’ve been fortunate to be exposed to this technology first hand and enamored by the transparency and trust this technology can facilitate.

 *** Legal Disclaimer: While I am an IBM employee and work on the IBM Blockchain brand, all opinions below are my own. ***

 For those looking to catch up on what exactly is blockchain (which is still most of the population), it’s the technology that underpins the cryptocurrency bitcoin, however, its capabilities are so much more than that. At its core, blockchain is a digital ledger that can trace and track every transaction from beginning to end, and it’s also immutable, meaning you cannot alter the information once entered. Using a “permission-based blockchain” (i.e. you decide who sees what info) the use cases are pretty vast, helping solve problems not only in the financial industry, but across other industries like food, entertainment, media, government, and supply chain.

 Now let’s get back to Nike. It’s been well documented that Nike factories where shoes are manufactured, don’t always use the most ethical business practices. This behavior seems a few steps removed from its brand promise of “Equality” doesn’t it? By no means am I bashing Nike…I’m a big fan…but I would like to challenge them to become even better.

 So what’s the connection between Nike and blockchain? If Nike was able to put all of their manufacturing and supply chain processes on a blockchain, they could make the data surrounding who is building their shoes and how it is being sourced transparent to the marketplace. What’s more, they could become drivers of the entire industry-wide footwear and apparel consortium – with other members of their supply chain like, raw-material suppliers, manufacturing facilities, retailers, and even their competitors - plugging their transactional data onto a blockchain creating one single source of truth.

 If you’re starting to squirm a bit and get nervous about the notion of working with your competition and opening up the blinds of your business practices to your consumers, think of the alternative...what if it’s not Nike who adopts this effort first? They could easily be disrupted and another brand, challenger or start-up, could immediately replace their street cred when it comes to the ideals and promise of standing for “Equality”. Which to me is what I'd be most concerned about.