Every company develops a brand reputation. Sometimes it helps the company bring in more revenue, and sometimes it plays against it. That’s not the case for NIKE, Inc. (NYSE:NKE), which by sponsoring many high-profile athletes and sports teams all over the world has become one of the most recognized global symbols.
Founded in 1964 by University of Oregon track athlete Philip Knight and his coach Bill Bowerman, NIKE, Inc. (NYSE:NKE) has become a leading player in the athletic footwear and apparel industry. Over the past 40 years, the company has built several competitive advantages:
— Strong Brand: NIKE, Inc. (NYSE:NKE) has been able to establish strong emotional connections with athletes by building one of the most widely recognized brands in the world. Interbrand puts Nike in the 26th position of its Best Global Brands 2012 Ranking, well above adidas AG (ADR) (OTCBB:ADDYY), which is in the 60th position.
— Pricing Power: Nike’s strong brand has enabled the company to set high prices, and therefore enjoy a higher gross margin in footwear than most of its competitors. Just in the latest quarter, the company posted an increase of 110 basis points in gross margin to 43.9%!
— Global Supply Chain: With more than 1000 factories worldwide and 1 million workers employed, NIKE, Inc. (NYSE:NKE)’s supply chain overshadows any other competitor. The company has the resources needed to supply the world with top-quality shoes without any trouble.
Countries with Nike factories Source: Nike.
— Permanent Innovation: The company is committed to finding and investing in new ideas. Each of Nike’s cash cows — the running business unit alone is worth $3.7 billion alone — started out as a simpleidea. In 2012 the company expanded NIKE+ into Basketball, unveiled new uniforms for the NFL, and developed a shoe upper with a single piece of thread using Flyknit technology, a set of patents that allows Nike to precisely engineer yarns and fabric variations needed for featherweight.
These advantages have allowed the company to more than double its revenue in the past 10 years. As earnings per share grew at a compounded rate of 15%, management returned over $15 billion to shareholders via dividend payments and share repurchases. The key behind these figures is massive growth. It took the company 18 years to earn its first $2 billion in revenue. By growing 8% in 2012, the company added that much in just 12 months.
Nike and Emerging Economies
Emerging markets are a massive opportunity for Nike. Asia and Latin America in particular are set to become the firm’s primary growth engines. Both regions will continue experiencing strong demand for its products due to increasing economic prosperity and a strong interest in sports.
The brand is already the leading player in China with more than $2.4 billion in sales in 2012. Because of increasing competition coming from adidas AG (ADR) (OTCBB:ADDYY) and HENNES & MAURITZ AB (OTCMKTS:HNNMY), however, Nike’s inventories have started to grow faster than its sales after growing its business 23% between 2011 and 2012. That being said, Nike still has plenty of room left for discounts in order to protect its leading position from Adidas.
Brazil is another key market. According to the company’s latest letter to shareholders, management is preparing a marketing plan more ambitious than anything they have done before for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.