Nike CEO "bullish" on future Apple partnerships

By Jonah Comstock

mark_parker_hi-res_crop_originalWhen Nike reportedly laid off most of its Fuelband engineering team in April, it seemed like the end of Nike's independent association with wearables, despite an official statement saying they would support the device "for the foreseeable future." But many, including MobiHealthNews, predicted that Nike's next move in the wearable space would be an even stronger partnership with long-time ally Apple.

Then Apple announced its long-awaited Apple Watch in September with hardly a mention of Nike, other than touting a new Nike Running app as one of the first third-party apps being developed for the platform.

Now, in an interview with Bloomberg TV, Nike CEO Mark Parker has confirmed that Nike will be working with Apple more in the future, although his comments weren't especially detailed. They could refer to new hardware, but also to Nike software on the Apple Watch or another Apple device.

"I’m quite bullish on our relationship with Apple," he told Bloomberg's Stephanie Ruhle. "As you know, Tim Cook is on the Nike board. I worked with Steve Jobs a long time ago when we introduced Nike+ for the very first time. So, as I look ahead to what’s possible between Nike and Apple, two, as you said, amazing brands, technologically we can do things together that we couldn’t do independently. So yeah, that’s part of our plan as we expand the digital frontier and go from what we say are tens of millions of users — right now there’s 25 million Nike+ users — to hundreds of millions." 

At various points in the interview -- which had a focus on Nike's marketing efforts targeted at women -- Parker discussed digital technology. He spoke about the value of social media channels for reaching customers, especially women.

"Well, social is everywhere," he said. "So everybody connects with each other socially, all the different platforms and obviously Nike’s no different. So we have digital connections with 65 million women. We also have women signed up with Nike+, Nike+ Running, the Nike+ Training Club. Apps, health and fitness and sports apps happen to be the fastest growing category out there, growing 85 percent more than any other app. Nike’s part and parcel of all of that."

Ruhle also asked about the future of wearable technology, giving Parker a chance to hint at what Nike and Apple might be planning.

"I think it [wearables are] going to be a big part of the future," he said. "I think what form it takes is the big question. People getting more information in a simple user-friendly way and getting feedback that helps them understand themselves better is a way to improve yourself, to connect with other people, to keep pace with what’s going on in the world. So I think the form it takes is what’s critical. You can go from [the] very geeky kind of wearables today to, what you’ll see in the future is stuff that’s more stealth, more integrated, more stylish, and more functional."