Lego appears to have a lock on sporting world business opps. Following recent deals with the NBA and NHL for sports-related toys, the company has laid out the building blocks of a global strategic alliance with Nike for Bionicle footwear.
Though Nike has created shoes modeled after sports heroes like Michael Jordan in the past, the Bionicle deal marks its first entertainment license. Many companies have approached the sports giant, but few had the right corporate culture. A Nike partner must be ‘willing to work from a creative zone first and not get so hung up on business details and legalities,’ says children’s footwear director Deborah Hilleren.
Nike felt that Bionicle would compliment its recently-announced NikeGo initiative, which promotes physical activity among kids. ‘The Bionicle story is very intriguing and inspirational to kids. There are a lot of elements to the characters that could motivate kids to get moving,’ says Hilleren.
The shoes, released in North America last November, were offered and promoted in both Lego and Nike distribution channels – including Lego brand stores, Nike retail outlets, lego.com, nike.com, FAO Schwarz, Dillards, Nordstrom, Journey’s Kidz and JCPenney.
Each pair of Nike’s Bionicle shoes comes with removable red Tahu Nuva masks for the toe-box (with five other collectible Toa Nuva mask pairs sold separately) and will be trotted out in Europe and Asia this spring. Both companies treated the North American release as a test. ‘We only put it in 208 doors in the U.S. because it’s a new thing for us’ to partner on an entertainment brand, Hilleren says.
At press time, Lego and Nike projected the shoes to sell out in the U.S. before Christmas. Even so, the partners are reluctant to discuss planned footwear based on other Lego properties, and for its part, Nike’s not certain that it will look to take a larger position on licensing going forward. ‘We’ll always be looking for interesting stories and partnerships, but we have no interest in doing straight licensing deals – that’s really not what we do,’ says Hilleren. ‘It’s not about the usual stamp in a plastic shoe, it’s about adding value and becoming part of the storytelling.’