By Spencer Feingold
With the goal of inspiring the next generation of female athletes, Nike announced it expanding its partnership with the Women’s National Basketball Association as the sportswear giant prepared to host the league's draft Wednesday at Nike's New York headquarters.
“There is such incredible momentum right now around women’s sports,” Rosemary St. Clair, vice president and general manager of Nike Women, told Cheddar in an interview Wednesday. She said Nike ($NKE) wants to "use our brand as a catalyst to be able to tell those stories and showcase what dreaming can do for you.”
Nike also announced it would work with the WNBA in 2019 for the Game Grower program, which partners league teams with schools in their communities in an effort to increase girls' participation in basketball.
St. Clair said Nike’s efforts are focused on creating a “positive experience for young girls,” and working with top athletes to inspire the next generation.
The company will use individual WNBA players “who are showcasing and allowing young girls to see themselves and what their potential can be,” she said.
Female athletes' successes have been increasingly in the limelight in recent years. At the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, women won more than half of the medals earned by U.S. athletes, and the U.S. women’s soccer team ー wearing Nike kits ー is favored to win its second consecutive World Cup title when that quadrennial tournament kicks off in France this summer.
Nike recently unveiled a 90-second commercial called "Dream Crazier," which features leading female athletes including the gymnast Simone Biles, the fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, and the gold-medal snowboarder Chloe Kim. The video was narrated by the tennis star Serena Williams.
Other sports brands such as Adidas, Nike’s main global competitor, have also started advocacy programs for women in sports. Adidas launch its She Breaks Barriers campaign in 2018 promoting gender equality in sports. The company also recently announced it would pay Adidas female soccer players the same bonus for winning the World Cup as their male peers.
As part of its partnership with the WNBA, Nike also announced Wednesday it is launching W.I.N. (Women in Nike), a new program that will help place retired players in full-time positions with the sportswear company.
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