Mercurial Soccer Boot
1997 and I was working for the newly resurected Soccer Division at Nike on the campus in Beaverton, OR. Sales was my remit and specifically building the soccer specialty channel throughout US. Nike senior leadership on the fourth floor of the McEnroe building had decided it was time to " go all in " and challenge the dominance that Adidas had in the category, the one truly global sport. Becoming #1 was the longer term goal, but short term it was to cause Adidas any and all grief so they would have to focus back on a category where they took the revenue for granted. Probably a little known fact that the early strategizing and product development were done on the ground floor in a building dedicated to the baseball great, Nolan Ryan. The Soccer Division occupied a few offices and cubes that in total was maybe 5,000 square feet. From this space and under the guidance of one of the icons of Nike, Sandy Bodecker the Mercurial boot was born. At this time every boot was leather, black and white and invariably players wore either the Copa or World Cup from Adidas. Innovation in a sport with deep heritage was not going to be easy but vision is a very powerful trait and Sandy had that in buckets. A small group of us were sitting around a table in Nolan Ryan and Sandy produces a generic shoe box and holding it close to his chest tells us that what we are about to see, we see under penalty of death if we talk about it. In this shoe box is a piece of footwear that is black, grey and red and very shiny. Caressing this shoe, Sandy turns it over and reveals blades that you would usually see on Baseball cleats. What struck me first was that this shoe seemed so light in his hands. The tongue was very minimal and the 'last' seemed narrower than a typical boot. As best I recall Sandy uttered these words " It's our new Soccer boot for Fall, called the Mercurial, made of Teijan leather, Ronaldo is going to wear, we are only going to make 500 pairs and the price will be $170 ". He educated us on what Mercurial meant " changeable, volatile, fickle; eratic; a mercurial nature" and sat there waiting for us to say anything. There were more smiles than words those first few minutes. We were all thinking it's not real leather, got too much color and we are going to charge an $80 premium for a plastic boot that doesn't have studs? The rest is history. Paradigm for Soccer boots was changed, sell thru was 100% inside a week, the brand heat was incredible. Nearly 20 years on and Nike Soccer goes from strength to strength. The Soccer category today is like Coke and Pepsi with Nike and Adidas dueling every season for dominance and owning almost every dollar of open to buy. Those were heady days helping build a Soccer brand / category and my high honor to have learnt from and worked with some true innovators (Bodecker, Wyatt, Daly, Hidalgo, Remmlinger) who changed a sport for the better through the product that made players at all levels reach new heights. Lesson is don't just build 'stuff' and chase trends but INNOVATE and 'set' the trends.