If they build it, will I purchase?

Mar 19, 2013
Tagged with: If they build it, will I purchase?

I recently became aware of a nationwide campaign aimed at the world’s top athletic shoe maker, and I must admit that I applaud the company for responding.

Matthew Walzer, a teenager in Parkland, Fla., wrote a letter to Nike CEO Mark Parker  requesting that the athletic shoe and apparel giant make him some basketball shoes. How many of those letters does Parker get every day, right? Everyone wants their own Nike-designed shoe. The difference in this letter is that Parker responded.

Walzer is a high school sophomore who has cerebral palsy. His letter eloquently details how he has successfully integrated himself into his public school, carries a 3.9 GPA, and is taking advanced courses with aspirations to pursue a journalism degree. His biggest concern about the future is moving away to college. He wants to, but he’s concerned because he’s still trying to master tying his own shoes. So, he wrote to Nike.

Walzer was also savvy enough to contact Matt Halfhill to advocate for him. Halfhill publishes Nice Kicks, a blog focused on developments in the athletic sneaker world. The marketing expert filmed a video, Tweeted it out, and the social media campaign went viral under the #NikeLetter.

Nike, in essence, was forced to pay attention.

The impressive part of Walzer’s campaign is that Nike is not just giving his request ears; the company is putting the rubber to the road, if you will. On Walzer’s personal blog, Against All Odds, his Nov. 3, 2012, post proves that Nike is quietly working to address Walzer’s concern regarding accessible athletic shoes. Nike has provided the teenager some prototype sneakers that zip rather than lace to test and offer feedback. Walzer’s blog provides a photo of the shoes, and Walzer’s words indicate he can successfully put them on himself. It all leaves quite the impression: “I have had them for a short amount of time, but when I put them on every morning, they give me the greatest sense of independence and accomplishment I have ever felt in my life.”

While Nike and Walzer may still be working out the kinks, the focus now turns to one burning question: Will these be mass-produced?

Walzer’s case is not an isolated one. Durability is also a concern for athletic shoes for people with physical disabilities like cerebral palsy. So is style. And the bridge between the two is never built. If there’s an extremely durable athletic shoe, it’s shoe-polish-white, an off-brand, and looks more like something my grandmother may purchase. If there’s an extremely stylish and name-brand athletic shoe that would be approved by any professional athlete spokesperson, then the toe wears out within a month.

As Nike continues to work with Walzer, it will be interesting to see how the athletic shoe company pushes the envelope. Will it embrace such a production niche that would position Nike as the leading athletic supplier for people with disabilities? Doing such would win over the largest minority population in the United States.

Furthermore, the disability population has an extremely brand-loyal consumer base. If Nike made such a commitment to address the needs of people with disabilities, I would be willing to sell out to the Swoosh. Would you?


Matthew Walzer’s letter to Nike: http://11championshipsandcounting.blogspot.com/2012/08/nike-letter.html

Huffington Post feature on Matthew Walzer: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/10/matthew-walzer-nike-cerebral-palsy-sneakers_n_1765811.html

Matthew Walzer’s new shoes from Nike: http://11championshipsandcounting.blogspot.com/2012/11/thank-you-nike.html



Author: Josh pate

  • http://www.facebook.com/kerry.wiley.9 Kerry Wiley

    The Matthew Walzer story is a great one. Thank you for sharing it again and for your thought-provoking article. I hope the athletic company pushes the envelope. I personally believe there is a niche.

  • Josh Pate

    Kerry, thanks for your comments. I know there is a niche, but the question will obviously remain: Can athletic companies transform that niche into profit? I think that will dictate how aggressively they would pursue.